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Has ever this question come to your mind? Do you want to know what diseases you may have in future?
With the rise in development for genetic science technology and reduced cost of technology, Genetic Testing companies are offering various genetic risk assessment tests, direct to consumer. It aims to identify the risk of disease an individual may have in future.
But are we ready to know what disease we might have in future?
Not everyone may have answer to this.
Let us try to understand
What is Genetic Risk Assessment?
Genetic Risk assessment is a specialized test which screens your DNA for possible mutations associated with diseases that you may be currently suffering from or may develop in future. It uses advance testing technologies to “read” DNA code. Bad codes in DNA called “mutations” are identified. These mutations give rise to genetic diseases.
Which genetic test screens for future risk?
A version of genetic testing called “Carrier Screening” (different companies have different names for this panel) is a panel, which consists of few hundred to few thousand disease screening. More the number of diseases, more the cost of the panel.
This, Carrier Screening panel, use your blood sample to read your DNA code for all possible mutations that you may have in your body.
Read about : What is Carrier Screening?
The results are provided either in the “Potential Risk” format where a risk scale is shown along with your risk to develop the disease or simply the “genetic report” where the mutations are shown, and rest is left for the clinician to interpret.
Do you really need a Genetic Risk Assessment test?
The main question that comes to mind is – Should I go for genetic test even if I don’t have any problem right now?
The answer is not a clear yes or no. It all depends how seriously you take your life, your financial condition and family history.
Let’s say you are a completely healthy individual. There is no family history of grave diseases. But you have come across an advertisement for genetic test for future risk assessment. You want to go for it but nor sure.
Think about it. Are you ready to be know that you may have a risk for a grave disease?
The disease can be anything from Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, obesity etc. Some disease doesn’t make much effect to the life while some are life changing and may even result to death. Do you want to be aware of such a disease?
Genetic Diseases are hardly unavoidable, but it does not mean if you have the mutation and high risk, you will always get the disease. You may have mutation and may never suffer from disease in your life. Too many people are carriers of important mutations and they live a health life. So why would you want to live in fear of a disease which may or may not happen to you. It all is an individual’s choice but sometime there are other factors which can help you decide.
First, if you ever have a disease that has been present in past few generations of your family, but you are not suffering from it, you may want to understand what is causing the disease in your family.
You should identify the genetic cause behind the family disease. It will help you in preventing future generation from developing the disease. For example, if a boy has a disease X mutation and he is going to marry a girl. He may want to tell girl family that he is carrier for disease X. The girl will then get herself tested and if she is also carrying same mutation for disease X, the chances are very high that their children will suffer from the disease. However, if the girl does not have any disease X mutation, their children will most likely be normal. This way the boy was able to decide the future of their children. This is one of the importance of genetic testing for risk assessment.
Secondly, if you have been facing some unexplained health issues and no such thing happened to your immediate parents, you may go for genetic testing to check if you are going towards any genetic disease.
Third, genetic testing is not economical. Cost is an important factor to consider while going for genetic testing. Unnecessary financial burden on family will not be desired by anyone. Genetic testing panels in India can range from 3,000 INR to 40,000 INR.
Read More about :Top 10 Genetic Testing companies in India
Fourth, you are eager to know about your health. If you are health conscious, financially and mentally strong, you should go for genetic screening test. If you are at risk of some disease, you may go for counselling to change your lifestyle and take preventive actions to prevent that disease from occurring.
What should you do?
Knowing one’s risk for disease in the future is a good thing but as an individual we may not be ready to face the uncertainty and fear of contacting the disease. Although the disease may or may not happen, but it can give lots of sleepless nights and unwanted stress. Any individual who wants to go for the genetic testing to assess their risk, must be mentally prepared to receive the news in worst case scenario.
Usually after these reports, the genetic counsellor will guide you through understanding the report and likelihood of you suffering from the disease in future. You may then be advised to change your lifestyle and take preventive measures to minimize the risk to the disease. But not all disease may need an action.
If you are unsure of what to do, think about it.
Discuss it with your family, with your doctor and most importantly, consult a genetic counselor. And by genetic counselor, we mean certified genetic counselor. Because, if you have the question about genetics, they have an answer for you