Tempted to try an at-home genetic test kit that can tell you about your cancer risks? Online options or drug store kits sound simple to use. Spit in a tube, mail it to a lab, get the results.
But what do the results really mean? And what can you do with the information, whether it’s positive or negative?
Most people need professional guidance not offered through at-home testing to understand risks and potential implications for family members.
“A healthcare provider who prescribes genetic testing can accurately interpret results and discuss appropriate disease prevention or treatment,” said Dr. Fiona Denham, Surgical Oncologist at Goshen Retreat Women's Health Center (the Retreat).
Counseling before and after genetic tests
Unlike online-order testing kits, Goshen Health offers a comprehensive approach to assessing cancer risk for men and women. It includes genetic testing through a reputable lab and pre- and post-test counseling by providers like Dr. Denham and Betsy Garber, Family Nurse Practitioner at the Retreat, who are trained in managing inherited cancers.
“We first want to make sure genetic testing is right for you,” explained Dr. Denham. During hour-long consultations, genetic experts at Goshen Health take an in-depth look at a patient’s family history with cancer and other health risks. They also look at clinical guidelines to decide if it is appropriate to do genetic testing.
Providers at Goshen Health who recommend genetic testing use a nationally known and validated lab to look at multiple genes (panel testing) that can indicate risk for hereditary cancers including breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostate, pancreatic and others.
When test results come back from the lab, trained professionals talk with patients about what positive or negative results mean. Counseling also helps patients make informed medical decisions about interventions and treatments.
Is genetic testing right for you?
Most people do not have a strong family history or inherited connection with cancer. Inherited mutations – like the ones at-home genetics testing companies test for – play a role in only 5 to 10 percent of all cancers.
If you think you are at risk for developing cancer, talk with your doctor. Trained healthcare providers at the Retreat can help you understand how factors passed from one generation to the next may increase your risk for several diseases.
For more information about genetic testing, contact Goshen Health, (574) 364-4600.