7 Reasons Why You Should Get Your Genes Screened

Since scientists developed genetic screening programs in the 1950s, the process has become more and more popular in the medical world for diagnosing, treating, and even eliminating the risk of passing on certain genetic disorders. Here we take a look at the potential benefits of getting your genes screened, not just on a personal level, but for society as a whole.

1. The cost of genetic screening has fallen considerably.

Genetic screening has become much more affordable. Today, genetic testing can cost as little as $100, depending on the test conducted. Newborn screening costs in the US vary from state to state, but most states charge less than $60 per infant.

2. Genetic screening is sometimes covered by medical insurance.

Coverage varies according to the specific policy wording, but many US health insurance policies cover the cost of genetic testing where a health official recommends it. Nevertheless, some patients opt not to make a claim because the results of genetic screening might affect their coverage.

3. Having your genes screened is easy.

Genetic screening is usually carried out using a sample of blood taken at the doctor’s office or hospital. The blood sample is sent away for laboratory analysis. It can take a few weeks or several months for the results to come through depending on the complexity of the test. In prenatal testing, results are generally given higher priority as time is an important factor in assessing the viability of a pregnancy.

4. Genetic screening can detect a wide range of genetic disorders.

Of the thousands of recognized genetic disorders, some of the more common diseases with genetic components include: cancer, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Marfan syndrome, high blood pressure, obesity, sickle cell anemia, hemochromatosis, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and Huntington’s disease.

5. Genetic screening can be helpful when planning a family.

Genetic screening has been routinely carried out on pregnant women worldwide for years in order to assess the risk of genetic disorders being passed on to unborn children. Pre-pregnancy genetic screening is becoming an increasingly popular option in family planning.

By having their genes screened ahead of time, prospective parents and medical practitioners can assess the risk of genetic disease being passed on and, when necessary, take preventative measures. Pre-pregnancy genetic screening tests for some of the more common genetic disorders such as: cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, fragile X syndrome, thalassemia, and spinal muscular atrophy. Expanded genetic screenings can detect over 400 genetic disorders.

If specialists detect a high risk of a genetic disorder being passed on, there are a number of options open to prospective parents. Some parents opt to proceed with pregnancy anyway (with recessive disorders, even if both parents test positive as carriers, they often still have a 75 percent chance of their child being born symptom-free). Other parents opt to explore other options, such as adoption, using donor eggs or sperm and/or surrogacy.

A relatively new approach involves using IVF and having the embryo tested prior to implantation. The embryo is only implanted if it is found to be healthy. This innovation allows couples to have biological children, even those who might otherwise have viewed their odds of passing on a genetic disorder to be high.

6. Genetic screening lowers the incidence of genetic disease in society.

Approximately 20 percent of infant mortality in the US is attributed to genetic disease. This means that pre-pregnancy genetic screening has the potential to not only improve individual outcomes, but also reduce the prevalence of genetic disease in society.

Implementation of screening programs in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, an ethnic group recognized to have a higher incidence of Tay-Sachs disease, has led to a significant reduction of the Ashkenazi Jews being born with the disorder. Indeed, this screening program is so successful that the incidence of Tay-Sachs disease in the US is now higher outside of the Ashkenazi Jewish community.

7. Genetic screening could potentially save your life.

As medical practitioners move towards personalized medicine, genetic screening is set to form an integral part in healthcare all over the world. Genetic screening can alert specialists to the risk of us developing a disease in our lifetime. It can also help doctors select the right care program and medicine.

Our DNA information, a genetic blueprint unique to each human being, may provide clues as to which drugs will work for an individual, and which will not. Recent studies have revealed that 30 to 60 percent of drug prescriptions are ineffective. Researchers believe this is largely due to differences in DNA making people react to those drugs in different ways.

Genetic profiling is already being used in hospitals today to help medical practitioners select the most effective treatments. Experts hope that personalized medicine will unlock the door to curing notoriously unpredictable and hard-to-treat diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and various forms of cancer.

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Harry Stylli

Over the course of his career, healthcare investor and entrepreneur Dr. Harry Stylli has provided executive leadership to numerous innovative companies.