What Genetic Testing Can't Tell You

Genetic testing can provide limited information about an inherited condition. It can't tell you if a person will show symptoms of a disorder, how severe the symptoms will be, or if the disorder will progress over time.

Genetic testing

looks for changes in a person's genes, chromosomes, and proteins. These changes can cause genetic diseases (also called genetic disorders) or increase a person's chance of having certain medical problems (such as some types of cancer).It's important to note that no genetic test is perfect.

There is always the possibility of a laboratory error. Samples can be confused or contaminated and errors can occur. This is more likely to happen when testing companies use laboratories that don't meet strict standards. When a health care provider performs a genetic test, they use laboratories that go through a rigorous and exhaustive certification process to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the test results. Direct-to-consumer tests may not use laboratories like this one, leaving room for error and a lack of oversight to avoid it.

DNA testing can provide you with a lot of information about the genes that make up who you are. It can confirm whether or not you have a specific disease, determine if you are at greater risk of developing certain conditions, and find out if you carry a specific mutated gene that you can pass on to your child. However, tests done at home do not provide information about a person's overall risk of developing any type of cancer. Sometimes, these tests can seem much more useful and safer than they have been proven to be. It may appear that the test will provide an answer to a specific health problem, such as hereditary cancer risk, but the test may not be able to fully answer that question. For example, a test can detect mutations in a particular gene, but it may not detect all possible mutations.

Therefore, a negative test result, even if it's correct, can miss the big picture about your cancer risk and what you can do to control it. In addition, you may not be provided with the important context about the test results that a genetic counselor could provide. Genetic testing is now used more frequently in traditional medical settings, as well as in more recreational settings. Many genetic tests that are done directly to the consumer do not test all genes or even evaluate all genes associated with a certain health condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a fact sheet on genetic testing, which includes an explanation of the types of genetic test results. When interpreting test results, health care providers consider your medical history, family history, and the type of genetic test you were given. A positive result from a predictive or presymptomatic genetic test generally cannot establish the exact risk of developing a disorder.

Analytical validity analyzes whether a DNA test can accurately detect if a specific gene has a mutation or not. Carrier testing can tell you if you have a copy of a mutated gene from an autosomal recessive disease. However, if you're worried about an increase in the incidence of cancer based on your family history, these tests may not be as comprehensive as you're looking for. If a genetic test is positive, it could tell your doctor that you need an additional heart test. Your healthcare provider will give you specific information about when the test results will be given. A positive test result means that the laboratory found a change in a particular gene, chromosome, or protein of interest.

People undergo genetic testing to see if they have genetic changes themselves or if they can pass genetic changes to their children. Pre-implantation testing can detect genetic mutations in embryos that were created using assisted reproductive techniques (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).So how can you be sure that you're getting the information you want and that it's correct? The best thing to do is to work with a certified genetic counselor.