If you could take a simple test that would identify your risks of developing a potentially deadly disease so you could prevent it or treat it sooner, wouldn’t you?
A proactive genetic test can do just that. Caroline Ewart, Genetic Counselor in the Center for Precision Medicine and Genomic Health at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, says, “Understanding your family tree is important for your future health. Genetics play a big role in what diseases we will develop in the future. The more we understand the family, the more you can proactively do to protect your health.”
Many people don’t consider genetic testing because they think it is too expensive, not accurate enough, or doesn’t screen for the diseases that run in their family. Caroline is helping us bust some of the common myths of genetic testing.
Myth #1: Genetic Testing is Too Expensive
When proactive genetic testing started, it was very expensive, and only a few select laboratories across the country performed the testing. Today, genetic testing is very affordable. Many health insurance companies will provide some coverage for testing, and the laboratories now have a limit on what they can charge.
A proactive screening in the Center for Precision Medicine and Genomic at St. Elizabeth Healthcare is just $395. That includes an initial genetic counseling visit, coordination of blood tests, carrier status screening, and a comprehensive consultation discussing your results. Individuals with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) may be able to use these funds to pay for the cost of the screening.
Myth #2: Genetic Testing Only Finds Breast Cancers
“It’s true, when genetic testing was in its infancy, we only tested for BRCA1 and 2 genes which detect breast and ovarian cancers,” says Caroline. “But the tests today are far more sophisticated. We now test for over 100 different gene mutations looking for a range of diseases and cancers.”
Inherited conditions the tests screen for, include:
- Breast cancer
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Colorectal cancer
- Cutaneous melanoma
- Gastric cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Renal cell cancer
- Thyroid cancer
Myth #3: Genetic Testing Doesn’t Help the Treatment of Diseases like Cancer
Genetic testing is used not only to proactively screen for certain diseases, but it is used to treat cancer as well.
“If you have been diagnosed with cancer, the gene mutation may guide treatment. It can also help your team manage increased risks of developing other types of cancers,” says Caroline.
More importantly, the results of proactive genetic testing can guide your healthcare team’s recommendations for screenings of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This may include starting screenings at an earlier age, increasing the frequency of screenings or suggesting more advance screenings.
“By screening early, we can find the disease early, when it is most treatable,” says Caroline.
Myth #4: Genetic Testing isn’t Accurate
Caroline says, “Certainly there are limitations to testing, but our process is more than just a blood test. By gathering a thorough family history we can determine your risk factors for developing certain diseases, even if a blood test comes back negative.”
At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, if you are found to be at high risk or test positive for genetic cancers, you are referred to the Heredity Cancer Clinic to develop a plan for future cancer screenings. They may also recommend your family members be tested, so you can get a full picture of your family’s health. St. Elizabeth has many types of genetic screenings. To find the one that best fits your needs, please visit stelizabeth.com/dna or call 859-301-GENE (4363).