SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you could find out whether you might develop certain cancers or heart disease, would you want to know? Genetic testing makes that possible, but Consumer Reports says not everyone benefits from this cutting edge research.
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After Fran Heller developed a breast tumor, genetic testing showed she had an inherited predisposition to cancer. Subsequent tests showed others in her family also had the same gene mutation.
"My sister, she made the decision sort of right away to have a prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy and also to have her ovaries removed," said Heller.
Consumer Reports medical advisor, Dr. David Seres says if one or more close family members has a disease with a genetic link, testing for the gene may make sense.
"In some diseases, genetic testing gives us the ability to detect problems early. It also helps us to potentially decrease the severity of the illness and may even help decrease the risk of developing the illness in the first place," said Dr. Seres.
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For instance, with breast and colon cancer, or some types of heart disease, there are good strategies for early detection and preventive measures like following a diet and exercise plan to lower your risk. But the same isn't true for Alzheimer's disease.
"We really don't recommend that people get genetic testing for Alzheimer's disease. There's no way to prevent it even if you know that you have the gene. But also not everyone who has the gene will develop the disease and so you may just be causing yourself unnecessary worry and costs," said Seres.
It's very important to consult with your doctor to see if you are a good candidate for genetic testing and if getting the results will be helpful. In some cases, the tests may be covered by insurance.
People who have a close relative who developed colon or uterine cancer before age 50 might consider a genetic test for lynch syndrome. About three to five percent of colon cancers stem from this inherited condition.
Increased surveillance can help detect any problems early.
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