Are you ready to be proactive about your long-term health. Take advantage of predictive genomic testing.
If you are generally healthy, this testing is a way to learn if you have a genetic predisposition to certain health conditions that haven’t presented any symptoms. Mayo Clinic is one of just a handful of medical centers to offer this service, and it’s available through its Executive Health Program.
In the first published study of its kind, Mayo Clinic found that more than 1 in 10 patients who participated in predictive genomic testing had a hereditary risk for a health condition and could benefit from preventive care or other treatments to reduce the risk of illness.
Colon cancer: When predictive testing shows a high risk for colon cancer, your doctor would advise colon cancer screenings starting at a younger age and screening more frequently than the standard recommendation.
High cholesterol: About 1 in 250 people have high cholesterol due to a genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia. Medication is needed to manage cholesterol levels. Without this knowledge, initial treatment might not be effective.
Breast cancer: Predictive genomic testing can provide detailed risk information on certain types of breast cancer. Prevention recommendations could include starting mammograms before age 40, additional screenings or prophylactic mastectomies.
Genetic testing evolves to preventive care
Each of us have more than 20,000 genes. Genetic testing on a portion of those genes has been available for years. Initially, the testing focus was on diagnosing and treating illnesses that ran in families. And that is still an important benefit.
Predictive genomic testing — before any signs of illness have occurred — is a more recent advancement. Think of this testing as part of your personalized, preventive medical care. It begins with a conversation with a licensed, board-certified genetic counselor. The conversation would cover:
- Your personal and family health history
- What genetic test results might tell you and or not tell you
- Benefits of genetic testing and potential concerns
- Your genetic testing options
The test itself is simple for the patient. The care team takes a blood or saliva sample. Results are available in three to eight weeks. A follow-up appointment is scheduled to discuss results.
Two test panel options — 150 genes or 5,000 genes
Right now, Mayo Clinic offers two predictive genomic testing options. One test looks at approximately 150 genes, each linked to preventable or treatable medical conditions like certain cancers and heart conditions. A positive result indicates you are at higher risk of the illness — not that it is certain to occur.
A second testing option analyzes approximately 5,000 genes. These genes influence various health conditions, including more cancers, heart diseases, neurological conditions, such as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and many others. For some of these conditions, there are no specific treatments or preventions to reduce the risk of disease.
Your testing choice is a very personal decision and one to discuss with a genetic counselor. The information you learn from genetic testing not only affects your health, but also can impact your family. Your parents, children and siblings have a 50 percent chance of having the same gene mutations that you do.
Many patients also want to understand how this information might be shared. Your personal health information is only yours to share. There are federal protections in place for preventing genetic discrimination, including the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). Your genetic counselor can talk about these protections and those available in your situation in more detail with you at your visit.
No best age for testing
There is no best age for predictive genetic testing. We have counseled patients ranging in age from 18 to 89. Many patients seek out predictive testing because they are interested in doing everything they can to have a long, healthy life. From that perspective, learning about the risk for treatable conditions sooner — rather than later — can be helpful.
Testing costs decline
Patients directly pay for predictive genetic testing. It’s not covered by insurance at this time.
As testing options have increased and technologies have improved, prices have decreased dramatically. As recently as 2014, a large genetic test could cost nearly $10,000. Today, typical out-of-pocket costs for testing range from about $200 to $2,000. Your consultations with a genetic counselor are covered by most insurance plans.
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