What does genetic testing do?
Genetic testing or DNA testing scans one’s DNA sequence to find patterns that could indicate risk levels for certain conditions such as cancer. Genetic testings could be conducted or requested in various scenarios such as testing newborns to identify genetic disorders for early treatment and diagnostic testing in case physical symptoms indicate you may be suffering from a genetic disorder.
This test used to only be available to patients for diagnostic testing as determined by qualifying physicians. However, it became available to the general public in Australia in 2017 to assess and reduce their health risks by changing their lifestyle or behaviours earlier on in life. Some authorised clinics host genetic testing for certain types of cancer which could cost anywhere between $200 to $1000. For more comprehensive genetic testing conducted by Genome One, the cost is about $6000. Genome One’s genetic testing covers 31 cancers, 13 heart conditions, and five other genetic conditions as well as your likely responses to more than 200 medications. The costs of genetic testing are not currently covered by Medicare.
Should I get genetic testing?
The testing is not 100% accurate or definitive but it should give you indications of what you may need to watch out for. For those who have known chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or other gene mutations in their family history, genetic testing may be useful. It’ll ease the anxiety of wondering and not knowing. It could also help guide you on how to arrange your lifestyle to minimise the likelihood of you becoming susceptible to such illnesses and prompt you to get frequent checkups. Some couples screen their DNA before pregnancy to ensure there is no chance of their baby inheriting any serious illness.
There are more niche cases where genetic testing could be highly recommended. If you or your partner have been exposed to chemicals that could cause genetic mutations or your first child is severely affected by developmental disorders, then genetic testing could help you understand how to tackle these complex health issues and prevent more from occurring in the future.
It’s also important to note that the insurers cannot use the results of your genetic testing to deny you cover or increase premiums. The testing results are private and cannot be accessed by insurers for application evaluation purposes.
How do I take the test?
Depending on the type of genetic testing you are looking for, you may need to consult with different physicians or specialists. A cancer genetic test could be conducted in a hospital after a medical consult and a prenatal screening will be conducted differently. For the comprehensive testing, Genome One is the only authorised entity in Australia to offer it.
While some genetic tests can be ordered online, it is strongly advised that you consult with a medical professional and get initial consultation before being directed to the right genetic testing sites. You should also share the results with your primary care physician so that he/she can provide more tailored advice on any recommended lifestyle changes most pertinent to you.