During pregnancy, many women are faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to undergo genetic cancer testing. While the test may provide valuable information about the health of the mother and baby, it also carries a small risk of miscarriage.
Genetic testing during pregnancy is a relatively new procedure that can provide expectant mothers and their families with important information about the risk of cancer. While the test itself is controversial, many experts believe that it has the potential to save lives.
Cancer is often considered a disease that only affects adults, but it can also occur in children and during pregnancy. In fact, cancer is the leading cause of death among pregnant women in the United States. If you are pregnant and have concerns about your risk of cancer, you may want to consider genetic cancer testing.
What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing is a simple blood test that can provide valuable information about your cancer risk. The test analyzes the DNA of healthy cells and uses the results to forecast your likelihood of developing certain types of cancer. Going forward, you can take steps to prevent cancer by keeping a close watch on your health and scheduling regular screenings and tests.
Genetic Testing for Cancer Risk
This uses Predictive genetic testingto assess a patient’s risk of developing future cancers. The test looks for mutated genes that make certain people susceptible to cancer. The results of the test can then be used to predict a high or low risk of developing cancer in the future.
What type of DNA Does Genetic Testing Look at?
Many different types of DNA are tested during genetic testing. The most common types of genetic tests are:
- Family history testing: This type of test analyzes the DNA of healthy cells in order to predict your chances of developing certain cancers. It is especially helpful when used to predict breast, ovarian, and colon cancer risks.
- Pedigree testing: A form of family history testing, it is used to research the family history of individuals in order to predict cancer risk.
- Pathogenic variant testing: This type of test analyzes your DNA to determine if you carry specific gene mutations that can cause cancer.
- Somatic (tumor) genetic testing: A more recent form of genetic testing, this requires direct examination of tissue or bodily fluids in order to assess an individual’s likelihood of developing cancer. Genetic tests like this one are especially helpful when assessing pediatric cancers and rare forms of adult cancers.
What to do if You’re Considering Genetic Testing
If you think that genetic testing may be right for you, make an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist. During the appointment, you will discuss your family history and concerns about your cancer risk. Your doctor will then provide you with more information about the test and what it can tell you about your health.
WhoShould Have Genetic Testing?
While genetic testing is most commonly recommended for individuals with a family history of cancer, it can benefit nearly anyone. It is especially helpful for:
- Women who have not yet reached menopause are worried about their breast or ovarian cancer risk.
- Individuals who have had multiple relatives struck with the same kind of cancer over several generations.
- People with a personal history of a cancer diagnosis before age 50.
- Pregnant mothers who are concerned about their baby’s cancer risk.
- Individuals who have a family history of rare forms of cancer like pancreatic, thyroid, or stomach cancers.
- Any individual who is interested in early cancer detection and prevention.
Who Should not get Genetic Testing?
While everyone is eligible for genetic testing, some people should avoid getting this type of screening: Women who are pregnant Women who may become pregnant People under the age of 18 Those who have a family history of severe mental illness Those with certain medical conditions (including lupus) or those taking prescription medications. Individuals under these categories should wait to get genetic screening until their condition has stabilized.
How Accurate is Genetic Testing?
The accuracy of genetic tests varies depending on the type of procedure performed. According to one study, predictive medicine tests are often correct when predicting common forms of cancer, but they are less accurate when predicting rare types of the disease.
If you decide to pursue genetic testing, make sure that you understand all aspects of the procedure before signing up for it. For example, some companies charge an additional fee for information that other providers may offer at no cost. Make sure that any extra fees are clearly stated in your contract and ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
Why is Genetic Testing Important?
While cancer is an incredibly serious disease, many people who develop the condition are unaware of their risk for years. For example, some cases of colon cancer go undiagnosed until they have progressed to late stages. As more and more people undergo genetic testing, it will become easier to detect common forms of cancer early on so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.
Here are the benefits of genetic cancer testing:
- It can detect cancer early on.
- It can save your life or the lives of others.
- It allows you to take preventative measures against cancer when necessary, such as lifestyle changes and therapies like chemotherapy.
What are Some Risks Associated With Genetic Testing?
While genetic testing is generally considered to be safe, there are certain potential risks associated with it:
- False positives (results suggest that you have a high risk for developing cancer when you actually don’t)
- False negatives (results show that your risk for developing cancer is low when it’s really high)
- Unnecessary anxiety about the results
- Psychological distress due to learning more than you needed to know about yourself
- The cost of screening
- Not knowing how to use the information provided by screenings
- Results that are inconclusive
If you are considering genetic testing, it’s important to discuss the potential risks with your doctor before moving forward.
While there are some risks associated with genetic testing, the benefits generally outweigh them. The earlier you detect cancer and other medical conditions, the sooner you can start taking measures to prevent or treat them. If you decide that genetic testing is right for you despite its risks, make sure that you understand all aspects of the procedure before moving forward.