Genetic testing may be beneficial in determining whether or not you have a disease or are likely to develop a disease over the course of your life. By examining your DNA, geneticists can look at variations in DNA sequences called genetic markers that indicate a person's predisposition to developing an inherited disease that may run in their family. Geneticists may be able to see how likely you are to develop cancer years before the disease takes over your body.
The pros and cons of genetic testing depend on how a person will benefit from the test results. If a genetic test reveals a strongly predictive negative result, a person probably will not develop a disease and frequent doctor visits and medical testing can be eliminated along with endless worry and uncertainty. In other words, if a test reveals the desired result, the advantages are relief, and there really are no disadvantages.
On the other hand, if a gene test demonstrates a genetic predisposition to an inherited disorder, the news can be depressing and a patient can burdened with information over which they have no control. However, knowledge of predisposition may give the person enough time to take preventative measures, including taking medicine or adapting lifestyle changes to lower the risk of contracting a disease.
If a disease is caught early on, the patient has the best possible chance of survival. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages for genetic testing are important in deciding whether or not to undergo a genetic test.
DNA genetic testing can be quite expensive and may not be included under a patient's insurance policy. Some genetic tests may require additional testing, which you may or may not be able to afford. For example, a genetic test from an online DNA testing company may cost between $620 and $3,456. There is the possibility that a person could spend thousands of dollars and not be able to benefit from the results.
It is important to understand that there are no real certainties in genetic testing. Genetic testing only indicates probabilities, which are not 100 percent certain. Despite breakthrough advances in DNA genetic testing, gene tests simply cannot rule out every possibility of developing a disease. Positive tests also do not necessarily mean a patient will necessarily develop a disease or disorder soon, if ever. Thus, there are certain limitations on scientific research technology and the margin of error of certain tests.
If a genetic test reveals you are at risk for a genetic disorder, there is the possibility that other family members may be at risk. If a genetic test reveals you are at risk for developing an inherited disease, whether or not you decide to share your status with family members is both a personal and ethical choice you will have to make.
Ethical issues are a definite concern and one of the disadvantages for DNA genetic testing. Issues in genetic testing ethics center around privacy and who should have access to the results of DNA genetic testing. Could a person be denied insurance coverage if he or she is likely to develop cancer later in life? Because there are not cures to every inherited disease, there is potential that the results of a genetic test could do more harm than good. Sharing your health risk status could potentially lead to discrimination at your job or for your medical coverage, no matter how illegal such discrimination might be.
Access Excellence Staff. (n.d.). Understanding gene testing: What are the benefits of gene testing? Retrieved September 21, 2008, from the Access Excellence Web site: http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/AEPC/NIH/gene17.php.
DNAdirect Staff. (n.d.). Pros
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions