While predictive genetic testing is certainly a medical breakthrough, there are those who get excited at the opportunity to look into their genetic makeup and those who aren’t. That’s because like everything else, genomic testing has its benefits and drawbacks. We’ve put together the following list of genetic testing pros and cons to help you make your own decision.
The Pros of Genetic Testing for Health
Removes the Guesswork
Without genomic testing, the process to develop a prevention plan would be to look at your family health history and get regular screenings for any health risks that run in your family. That isn’t really prevention but is instead just monitoring the situation in order to stay on top of it. When you and your physician can instead look at your genomic test results, you can remove most of the assumptions and make more informed decisions about your health.
Allows You to Engage in Better Prevention Plans
When your genomic test indicates a high risk for a certain genetic disorder, it equips you with the ability to create a more effective prevention plan. Instead, traditional healthcare has called for a blanket prevention strategy that involves trying to prevent as many health issues as possible without really knowing what to focus on or what strategy would really work to begin with. When you understand your genetic strengths and weaknesses related to health as well as the lifestyle adjustments that will work best for you, you can put a more precise prevention strategy in place.
Your genomic test results are not a diagnosis. Having certain genic variants does not mean you will get the condition(s) associated with that variant, and not having the variant does not mean you won’t get the condition(s) associated with it. What the test does for you is provide you with information that can help you create a Health Action Plan that will best assist you in lowering your high risks and keeping your low risks low. For example, if you have a high risk of developing heart disease, you might decide to quit smoking, eat healthier and get more frequent screenings.
Improves Your Life Expectancy & Quality of Life
Because genomic testing is predictive, it provides you with the ability to make more informed decisions about your health so that you get better outcomes. While there are no guarantees, if lifestyle interventions are successfully achieved, you can enjoy a longer life expectancy and a better quality of life.
Provides a Source of Relief
When a genetic test result indicates that a gene variant for a certain health risk is not present, individuals can experience a tremendous sense of relief from worrying about the uncertainty. This is especially true for people who know a certain genetic disorder runs in their family, increasing their chances of getting it. It is important to not use that relief, however, as an excuse to engage in unhealthy habits that could lead to disease. Lifestyle factors play an important role in prevention, even for human genetic disorders.
GINA Protects Most Americans Against Discrimination
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed in 2008, protecting most Americans against employment and health insurance discrimination based on their genetic information.
Genetic Tests Are Easy & Convenient
DNA tests, especially those that are saliva tests like CarpeVITA GenoTests, are so simple that you can do them personally in your own home. GenoTests can be purchased online by the consumer. Once the kit arrives, you simply spit into a tube to provide your saliva sample and mail the kit back using the prepaid mailing box. Alternately, your healthcare provider can provide you with the kit if he or she offers them.
Costs Are Manageable
While most people pay for genetic testing out of pocket, costs have come down considerably and are certainly manageable, especially when you consider the money that can be saved by preventing health issues from occurring as a result of the information you gain. The cost is especially efficient when you get a full body test, such as the 360° Women’s Health GenoTest or the 360° Men’s Health GenoTest.
A Variety of Tests Are Available
CarpeVITA Genomics provides a variety of tests, ranging from our Nutrigenomics & Fitness GenoTest, which analyzes genes to determine the foods, exercise and weight management methods that are a best match for the individual, to 360° Women’s and Men’s GenoTests, which help determine genetic susceptibility relative to your population/ethnicity to certain cancers, heart conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, intolerances and more.
A Family Planning Tool
Genetic tests are useful when couples are planning a family because it allows them to determine the genetic conditions that could be passed on to their children. Couples can use the information to decide whether they want to have children or not. They can also test the child before it is born to see if it has been affected so that they can mentally and physically prepare for the situation.
When a healthcare provider has not only a family health history but also the results of a genetic test to work from, he or she can make a more informed diagnosis, thereby avoiding misdiagnosis. Your genetic results can also be useful in preventing your family members from receiving a misdiagnosis since their physician can take into account the genetic conditions you are susceptible to that might run in the family.
Improved Doctor-Patient Relationship
If you’ve been thinking, “gone are the days when doctors and patients had an actual relationship beyond a 10 minute appointment once every couple years,” you’ll be happy to know the doctor-patient relationship is shifting. Genomic testing is one of the catalysts of that shift. In order to be in compliance with the FDA, CarpeVITA does not provide clients with their genetic health results without consulting with a healthcare provider/health coach. This is a good thing! At your genetic consultation, your provider will review your results with you so that you can fully understand them and then he or she will work with you to create a SMART Health Action Plan that will help you use lifestyle adjustments to meet your health goals. You’ll understand yourself a lot better, which will allow you to better participate in your health. In addition, your provider/health coach will know you better than a typical physician would, which will allow him or her to better treat you moving forward.
Your Results Can Help Your Family Members as Well
When you receive the results of your genetic test, you’ll be able to share that information with your family members who might also have similar genetic susceptibilities. This can help them to better plan for their own health as well.
Genomics Provides Scientists With a Better Means to Study Disease
The more genetic information scientists have access to, the better they will be able to discover effective treatments and prevention methods for genetic disorders. Genomics will greatly alter healthcare for the better. This article does a great job of explaining how important it is: The Importance of Genetic Data for Science.
The Cons of Genetic Testing for Health
There Are Limitations
Genomic tests cannot guarantee whether a person will develop or not develop a health issue. It is merely a way to determine if there are genetic variants or mutations that increase the person’s risk of developing the disorder. It is also important to note that many genetic tests only detect the most common variants that can cause certain health issues and cannot detect all of the variants.
You also want to consider which GenoTest you want to take before ordering it because you will only receive results based on the test you order. That means if you order the Nutrigenomics & Fitness GenoTest, you will be provided with information about your response to certain foods and exercise, not about specific genetic disorders. We suggest ordering one of the 360° GenoTests, which allows you to spend the least amount of money to access all of our tests at once.
Genetic health tests are also limited in terms of how a person will experience a health issue if he or she is to get it. For example, there are often mild and more severe versions of health disorders, but genetic tests cannot tell the difference. Health conditions also develop at a different pace for different people and that cannot be determined either.
One Must Consider the Emotional Aspects of Genomic Testing
Some people react negatively to high-risk genomic test results even though the results do not mean they will definitely get the disorder. They can become depressed, anxious or angry because they assume they will get the disorder instead of viewing it as information to help them create a better care plan. The stress might lead to other health issues, such as stomach ulcers, headaches and more. Individuals should take the time to consider how a high-risk result will impact your emotional state before deciding to move forward with genomic testing.
It is also important to consider the emotions you will experience if you are to find out that you have passed on certain genes to a child. Some people feel guilty even though there is nothing they could have done to prevent it. It is important to remember that having that information will allow you to help your child engage in healthy lifestyle habits that give him or her a good chance of preventing their health risks.
Furthermore, while normal test results would create a sense of relief for most people, some people feel survivor guilt. They may feel guilty for having been spared the risk of the genetic disorder, which can put a burden on relationships with certain family members.
False Sense of Security
Most people feel a sense of relief when they discover they have normal test results, which while certainly warranted can lead to a false sense of security. Genomic tests are not definitive. A normal test result does not guarantee healthy genes and it doesn’t mean that a condition will not occur as a result of environmental and lifestyle factors. Not carrying the abnormal gene that causes certain genetic conditions doesn’t mean you will never get the disorder, only that you are less genetically susceptible to it.
Prevention Methods Are Still Limited
While we do know for sure that lifestyle choices can be the difference between getting or not getting a disorder (and in some cases living with or reversing a health issue), scientists are still learning what the best prevention methods are for each health issue. While some genomic tests can even help you to know what medications and treatments you will respond to the best, taking the guesswork out of many care plans, there are no definite results. The more we learn about health disorders, the more we will know about how to prevent them, which will happen over time as scientists further analyze the human genome.
Not All Abnormalities Have Been Identified Yet
We’ve mapped the entire human genome, but scientists are still learning about mutations in genes and the effects those abnormalities have on our health. In rare cases, a genomic test can reveal normal results without guaranteeing healthy genes. For example, some women have breast cancer even though they tested normal for the breast cancer mutations that we are currently aware of. This demonstrates that there must be one or more breast cancer gene mutations that haven’t been identified yet.
Potential Family Issues
Since genetic abnormalities are passed down through families, the results of genetic testing can bring light to genetic information and health risks about family members. Some family members will not want to know that information.
Sometimes, test results will inspire interaction with family members that cause family secrets to be revealed. Examples include adoptions and paternity. Care should be taken in thinking about how these types of things could affect your family relationships.
Difficult Decisions About Starting a Family
While we listed family planning as a pro, we also feel it needs to be listed as a con since making decisions about not expanding your family based on information you learn from a genomics test can be disheartening.
Patient Privacy Concerns
Perhaps the most common concern in relation to genomic testing is patient privacy.
Law prohibits health insurers from using genetic information as a pre-existing condition that could disqualify a person from getting new insurance or as a reason to raise premiums, but there are holes in the law that might not prevent discrimination entirely. It is always best to contact your insurance provider to determine the effect genetic testing can have on your coverage.
While some health insurance policies cover the cost of genetic testing when suggested by a healthcare provider, purchasing a test through insurance provides the opportunity for the results to negatively impact the cost of your health insurance.
Then there is also the concern of archived patient samples and DNA information in the cloud. Some people don’t want their genetic information to be accessed by anyone, including scientists who are studying diseases. If this is a concern for you, this article provides a lot of useful information: Should You Worry About Your DNA in the Cloud?
Cost is a Concern for Some People
While we also listed cost as a pro, we see that it can also be a con for some people. Most people pay for genetic testing out of pocket, and although prices have come down considerably, it can still be a concern for many people. This is especially true for people who want to obtain several genetic tests. That’s why we have created our 360° Women’s and Men’s Health GenoTests, which allow you to purchase a bundle of all of our tests together for one highly reduced price.
There is No Going Back
The most important thing to keep in mind when determining if genetic testing is a good option for you is that there is no going back. Once you get the test and see the results, you will have to deal with any emotional issues, family issues or any other concern that could come up. On the other hand, it could turn out to be one of the best decisions you ever made, especially if you are able to meet your health and wellness goals as a result of the findings.