Benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing
Genetic testing for gene mutations associated with hereditary cancer can provide important medical information for the person undergoing the testing and for their blood relatives.
Benefits of genetic testing for people already diagnosed with cancer
- It can help them make treatment decisions.
- It can help them qualify for treatment clinical trials enrolling people with hereditary cancer.
- It can help them understand their risk for additional cancers.
- It can help their relatives better understand their risk for cancer.
Benefits of genetic testing for people who have not been diagnosed with cancer
- It can help people better understand their cancer risk and make medical decisions about cancer screening and prevention.
- Testing negative may provide some relief to relatives who test negative for a mutation that runs in their family.
Limitations of genetic testing
Genetic testing is not right for everyone. Some limitations of genetic testing include:
- Not everyone is a candidate for genetic testing.
- Testing can be expensive if not covered by insurance, however, financial aid and low-cost options may be available.
- It does not always provide an answer about the cause of cancer within a family.
Risks of genetic testing
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is a law that prohibits discrimination by health insurance companies and employers based on a genetic test result or family history of disease. It is important to note that GINA does not apply to life, long-term care, or disability insurance. These insurers are permitted to use genetic or health information to make coverage or premium decisions. Some states have passed laws that go beyond the scope of GINA to prohibit genetic discrimination for "other insurances.” U.S. residents are encouraged to explore whether your state provides additional protections.
Costs of genetic testing
Most health plans will cover the cost for genetic testing for people who meet certain criteria. For those without insurance coverage for testing, many labs offer financial assistance, or low-cost testing for about $250.
A genetics expert can explain all the benefits, limitations and costs of genetic testing. They can help you decide whether or not to have genetic testing.