Genetic Testing for Disease

The boomer generation is getting older, no question about it.  But the way they are approaching old age is different than their parents and modern medicine along with technology is forging a new future of aging.

Genetic testing for certain types of cancer, heart disease and stroke, autoimmune disease and neurological disease is allowing people to identify risk factors and more effectively manage conditions.  Early detection may help the medical community get a jump on treatment and prevention but at what cost?

Is the extra time worth the personal cost of living with the knowledge of what the future may hold? For some, testing offers a sense of relief and allows patients to make informed decisions about their health without uncertainty.  There are limitations to some of the current testing and not all types of cancer can be detected; for some there may be no effective treatment.

Genetic testing may be recommended by a healthcare professional if a hereditary factor of disease is suspected. The cost of testing is covered by provincial health care if the individual meets specific criteria.  It is important to remember that other factors such as lifestyle and environment must be taken into consideration.  Education and counseling should be done before any testing takes place.

There is no right or wrong decision regarding genetic testing.  Some people want to have all the facts available to them and their families while others prefer not to find out if they have the genetic risk factors for diseases such as Parkinson’s.  It is important to know that Canada does not currently have legislation in place that protects the privacy of individual genetic testing results.  Insurance companies and employers can legally ask if a person has undergone genetic testing and request the results.

Private genetic testing for ancestry information is available through companies such as 23andMe, which has also teamed up with Genentech, a pharmaceutical division of the Roche Group, to sequence the whole genomes of 3,000 individuals with Parkinson’s.  It is hoped that the data will open doors for new targeted therapies for the disease.

For more information about the benefits and limitations of genetic testing visit The Canadian Cancer Society website at .