Genetic testing is a type of medical test made to detect changes or abnormalities in a person’s DNA (specifically in the proteins, chromosomes, or genes) to identify individual risk for the development of a disease or condition.
For many years, genetic testing was reserved for specific groups of people—like families who were worried about passing a genetic disorder to future children.
But today the world of genetic testing is an option for anyone with an interest or concern about their health wanting to know more about their unique risk for developing everything from cancer to macular degeneration.
People are interested in their health and what the future may hold—and getting the answers is easier than ever. Patients can order certain genetic tests online. Some of these tests can be taken at home using a simple saliva sample and sent back in for processing. When the results come back, it’s time to take action.
Here are 3 ways you can use this information to help prevent the development of future disease:
1. Use your results as a point of communication with your doctor.
More often than not, people forget to address all of their concerns or are too intimidated to bring them up when visiting their doctor. With the results available to you and your healthcare team, you can openly discuss questions you may have that are presented in the report.
One of the benefits of having this report is that your concerns may already be brought up by the results for your doctor. In fact, patients who have a thorough and clear channel of communication with their doctor boosts the likelihood that you will follow their suggestions and have a better physical outcome.
2. Make a plan for screening and monitoring.
Depending on your results, you may need to make a clear plan for further screening and monitoring that may help you identify unhealthy changes sooner. Genetic testing can identify a variety of risks for specific types of cancers (like lung, colon, and prostate), diabetes, Lynch syndrome and a spectrum of other conditions.
Having this information on hand can help your medical team decide if you need more frequent check-ups or additional testing in the future.
3. Adjust to important lifestyle changes.
Just because a genetic test shows an increased risk for the development of diabetes doesn’t guarantee that you will develop the disease, but you’ll certainly want to take every precaution to keep your body healthy. That means adjusting to certain lifestyle changes seriously—like adding exercise and keeping sugary carbs to a minimum.
If you have an increased risk for a certain type of lung cancer, it would only benefit to stop smoking and adopt a healthy lifestyle. The results of your genetic test can be a great motivator for changes you’ve needed to make as well as point out changes in your lifestyle you weren’t aware of.
Understanding your risk for disease development may feel scary at first, but the information provided could offer a window into your future health—not illness if you use it right. Imagine living your best life filled with the knowledge and support of your medical team, family, and friends.
You can do it. Get started today by learning more.
By Valerie S.