Since March is Trisomy Awareness Month, it’s beneficial for the public to learn more about genetic testing. With technology advancing at an astronomical rate, we are able to incorporate these advances into the health and medical fields in order to discover more about ourselves. We are now able to unravel the mystery encoded within our DNA to learn more about diseases—especially how they manifest and function. Tests can serve as reassurance to expecting parents, provide answers for individuals at risk for a hereditary disease, or even as entertainment for someone who is curious about their ancestry. With the commercialization of genetic tests, some companies will send the testing kits directly to your home, where you can collect your own DNA sample at your own convenience. Proper research should be done when seeking out one of these direct-to-consumer kits, so that you are satisfied with your genetic testing experience. Prices vary from company to company, so make sure you’re investing wisely!
What is genetic testing?
A genetic test is a type of medical test that is able to find any alterations found within our chromosomes, genes, or proteins.
What are genealogical DNA tests?
These DNA tests are used for comparative purposes. Results are not used for medical purposes, but for genealogical information. This allows us to find out more information on our ancestry.
What is the process like?
Whether you decide to do the testing at home via one of the many at-home genetic testing kits provided by companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, or through a medical professional, these tests require DNA samples. This can be done through collecting saliva, blood, hair, skin, amniotic fluid, or other tissue. At home kits typically come with vials for your saliva to be sent to their labs. Genetic tests for cancer are more intensive, as they require several tubes of blood. Results are interpreted and sent back to the individual.
What kind of information will I receive?
Depending on the type of genetic testing you choose, results given to you may vary. For example, companies that offer at home testing kits may present your information in personalized genetic reports to tell you about your family history, if you are a carrier for an inherited condition, or even tell you more information about your unique traits. When consulting with medical professionals, the possibility of genetic conditions and the appropriate course of action for you or your future children will be discussed.
Who benefits from these tests?
Anyone who wants to learn more about their genetic makeup can get testing done. If you are looking to start a family and want to find out your chances of having children with genetic conditions, consulting a genetic counselor to interpret the information for you will be beneficial. Those who are at risk for certain cancers or diseases that run in their family would make for great candidates for these tests as well. However, possible medical conditions don’t have to be the reason to get these tests done. It can even be beneficial to those who are just curious to learn more about their genetic makeup. These services are typically not covered by insurance, so it is important to research your options and how much they may cost you out-of-pocket. New federal health care laws state that genetic tests should be conducted for women at higher risk for getting breast and/or ovarian cancer. Coverage varies depending on your health plan, so make sure to find out what’s included in your plan.
If you’re interested in learning more about genetic testing for genealogy, check out International Society of Genetic Genealogy . If you would like to know more about how a genetic counselor might help you and your family, visit National Society of Genetic Counselors .