Genetic testing – About – Mayo Clinic

Posted: December 27, 2017 at 12:40 am

Overview

Genetic testing involves examining your DNA, the chemical database that carries instructions for your body’s functions. Genetic testing can reveal changes (mutations) in your genes that may cause illness or disease.

Although genetic testing can provide important information for diagnosing, treating and preventing illness, there are limitations. For example, if you’re a healthy person, a positive result from genetic testing doesn’t always mean you will develop a disease. On the other hand, in some situations, a negative result doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have a certain disorder.

Talking to your doctor, a medical geneticist or a genetic counselor about what you will do with the results is an important step in the process of genetic testing.

When genetic testing doesn’t lead to a diagnosis but a genetic cause is still suspected, some facilities offer genome sequencing a process for analyzing a sample of DNA taken from your blood.

Everyone has a unique genome, made up of the DNA in all of a person’s genes. This complex testing can help identify genetic variants that may relate to your health. This testing is usually limited to just looking at the protein-encoding parts of DNA called the exome.

Genetic testing plays a vital role in determining the risk of developing certain diseases as well as screening and sometimes medical treatment. Different types of genetic testing are done for different reasons:

Generally genetic tests have little physical risk. Blood and cheek swab tests have almost no risk. However, prenatal testing such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling has a small risk of pregnancy loss (miscarriage).

Genetic testing can have emotional, social and financial risks as well. Discuss all risks and benefits of genetic testing with your doctor, a medical geneticist or a genetic counselor before you have a genetic test.

Before you have genetic testing, gather as much information as you can about your family’s medical history. Then, talk with your doctor or a genetic counselor about your personal and family medical history to better understand your risk. Ask questions and discuss any concerns about genetic testing at that meeting. Also, talk about your options, depending on the test results.

If you’re being tested for a genetic disorder that runs in families, you may want to consider discussing your decision to have genetic testing with your family. Having these conversations before testing can give you a sense of how your family might respond to your test results and how it may affect them.

Not all health insurance policies pay for genetic testing. So, before you have a genetic test, check with your insurance provider to see what will be covered.

In the United States, the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) helps prevent health insurers or employers from discriminating against you based on test results. Under GINA, employment discrimination based on genetic risk also is illegal. However, this act does not cover life, long-term care or disability insurance. Most states offer additional protection.

Depending on the type of test, a sample of your blood, skin, amniotic fluid or other tissue will be collected and sent to a lab for analysis.

The amount of time it takes for you to receive your genetic test results depends on the type of test and your health care facility. Talk to your doctor, medical geneticist or genetic counselor before the test about when you can expect the results and have a discussion about them.

If the genetic test result is positive, that means the genetic change that was being tested for was detected. The steps you take after you receive a positive result will depend on the reason you had genetic testing.

If the purpose is to:

Talk to your doctor about what a positive result means for you. In some cases, you can make lifestyle changes that may reduce your risk of developing a disease, even if you have a gene that makes you more susceptible to a disorder. Results may also help you make choices related to treatment, family planning, careers and insurance coverage.

In addition, you may choose to participate in research or registries related to your genetic disorder or condition. These options may help you stay updated with new developments in prevention or treatment.

A negative result means a mutated gene was not detected by the test, which can be reassuring, but it’s not a 100 percent guarantee that you don’t have the disorder. The accuracy of genetic tests to detect mutated genes varies, depending on the condition being tested for and whether or not the gene mutation was previously identified in a family member.

Even if you don’t have the mutated gene, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never get the disease. For example, the majority of people who develop breast cancer don’t have a breast cancer gene (BRCA1 or BRCA2). Also, genetic testing may not be able to detect all genetic defects.

In some cases, a genetic test may not provide helpful information about the gene in question. Everyone has variations in the way genes appear, and often these variations don’t affect your health. But sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a disease-causing gene and a harmless gene variation. These changes are called variants of uncertain significance. In these situations, follow-up testing or periodic reviews of the gene over time may be necessary.

No matter what the results of your genetic testing, talk with your doctor, medical geneticist or genetic counselor about questions or concerns you may have. This will help you understand what the results mean for you and your family.

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Aug. 09, 2017

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Genetic testing – About – Mayo Clinic

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