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The advantages and disadvantages of genetic testing | Part 2

shutterstock_93792616Continuing this month’s series on genetic testing, Part 1 explored the common questions asked and answered. Part 2 dives a little deeper into the advantages genetic testing has to offer, as well as the some disadvantages you’ll want to consider.

What criteria do experts use when referring patients for genetic testing?

Unfortunately, there is still some debate as to who benefits most from genetic testing.  At RMANJ, we offer every couple looking to conceive the opportunity to speak with a genetic counselor who is best qualified to discuss which diseases a couple might be at risk to carry and what tests they should consider.

What do genetics counselors do?

Genetic counselors are specially trained healthcare professionals with backgrounds in medical genetics and counseling.  These individuals can identify genetic causes of diseases in individuals presenting with a disease.  They can also identify families that carry a genetic disease or couples at high risk to have a child with a genetic disease.  Genetic counselors will speak with a patient, asking them questions about their family history and ethnic background to identify what they may be at risk to carry.  Genetic testing can be offered and genetic counselors will be able to counsel on what risk an individual carries for developing or passing on a genetic disease.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to genetic testing?

As discussed above, the main advantage is that early detection may prevent more severe forms of a disease or allow the use of Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to prevent a couple from having a sick child.

The main disadvantage is that is my cause psychological stress to an individual if they are aware of an increased risk of developing a disease that has no cure or intervention to delay its onset.

Does getting tested open a can of bad worms?

Part of ordering a test is knowing what do to with the results.  In some cases knowing you have a predisposition to a disease like cancer may cause psychological stress.  It also may prompt your physician to order extra testing which can be time consuming and expensive.  However, the potential upside for early detection of a disease or for preventing the birth of a child with a fatal genetic condition may outweigh these risks.  It is a careful balance that should be considered but genetics are the future of medicine and will likely allow us to live longer, healthier lives.

GENETIC TESTING SERIES

Part 1 Common Questions Asked & Answered

Part 2 The Advantages & Disadvantages

Part 3 Advancing Technologies

Part 4 Inherent Disease



Dr. Thomas Molinaro, MD, MSCE, FACOG

Physician Partner, Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey Eatontown, NJ

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