Evolving Field of Medicine Offers Promise
Healthcare providers have always sought to individualize care for their patients. But now, advances in medical research allow providers to study a person’s genes, offering another tool to guide decisions about preventing, diagnosing and treating disease. Personalized medicine, also called precision or individualized medicine, is an evolving field where providers use genetic testing to understand how a person’s disease risks are unique. Used alongside information about family history, symptoms and environmental factors, genetic testing can help providers prevent illness and/or determine which treatments will work best.
This personalized approach has been linked to reduced likelihood of stroke, fewer hospitalizations for heart patients, improved survival rates for those with leukemia and colorectal cancer, as well as a more targeted use of chemotherapy.
A Genomic Blueprint
Say what? A genomic blueprint is a map of your genes. It shows your genes and any changes to them that may indicate a tendency for developing a health condition.
Having a genetic predisposition (or tendency) means having an increased likelihood of developing a disease because a particular gene pattern exists. The good news is that not all people who have inherited a disease gene will get that disease. Even in the same family, one person may develop the condition while others don’t.
Genetic Testing For Prevention and Treatment
Genetic testing can be used to help patients prevent the onset of disease and identify the best treatment for existing conditions. It is known, for example, that mutations (or alterations) in specific genes are linked to increased risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer. These mutations can be passed to people by their mother or father so if a patient has a family history of these cancers, genetic testing may be recommended as part of an overall preventive strategy. Reducing risks and adopting preventive behaviors (like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly) may help prevent cancer or other disease, even when a gene for the condition is present.
Genetic testing has changed the way some cancers are treated. In the past, patients with the same cancer at the same stage would receive the same treatment. Now, tumors can be analyzed and treatment can be personalized, for example, determining what medications and/or radiation therapies will be most effective in treating a specific tumor. This makes it possible to decrease some of the toxic side effects from a “one size fits all” treatment approach.
Genetic testing isn’t only used for cancer. It has been used for decades to test newborns for serious inherited disorders, during pregnancy to identify chromosomal disorders, to help diagnose a condition when signs and symptoms suggest it, and in forensics to help solve crimes. Results from gene testing can also guide providers when prescribing new medications. For example, a psychiatrist with access to a patient’s genetic code can determine which medicine would best help their patient’s depression and have the fewest side effects.
Whether you have a genetic predisposition that puts you at risk for developing a medical condition or you already have a serious concern, there are preventive measures you can take to reduce your risks. Lifestyle and environmental factors can affect your health. Ask KnovaSolutions what you can do to prevent disease or minimize symptoms and side effects.
Is it Covered By Insurance?
Genetic tests can range in price from $15 to more than $2,000. Price varies with the complexity of the test, the number of tests needed and how many family members must be tested to get a useful result. When testing is recommended by a doctor, some health insurance plans will pay for certain testing, though often strict criteria must be met first.
United Health Group, one of the nation’s largest private insurers, began covering genetic testing for patients with a certain type of lung cancer in 2015. Medicare covers genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes under certain circumstances. Because an insurer may not cover all genetic testing, it is beneficial to call and speak with an agent about their current policy. Take careful notes, including the name of the person you spoke to, and the date and time of the call.
Targeting Cancer Cells
Targeted therapies have been applied in the treatment of many cancers, such as breast, colorectal, lung, kidney, skin, some types of leukemia and lymphoma, and some kinds of childhood cancers. New studies are conducted each year to identify additional ways to target cancer cells.
Is Genetic Testing Right For Me?
There are many benefits to genetic testing but the field is ever changing and sometimes the results are difficult to interpret. When thinking about genetic testing, it is important to discuss it fully with your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits. Ask questions such as:
- How are the tests performed and where? Will there be discomfort or potential side effects?
- What information you will learn? What is the logical next step, if any, once the result is known? How might the result affect your treatment plan?
- What is the cost and do you meet the criteria established by your insurer for coverage? Will there be any out-of-pocket cost?
Since it can take several weeks or even months to receive results, consider how the timing may impact treatment. Consider whether you would prefer to pay for testing privately (if this is an option) to protect your privacy.
KnovaSolutions can help you understand more about personalized medicine and genetic testing. We can explain the ways testing may apply to your situation and help you understand your options. We will also help you find ways to adopt a lifestyle that may help you prevent the development of new medical conditions and manage your existing ones.
Call KnovaSolutions at 800/355-0885, Monday through Friday, 8 am – 5 pm, Mountain Time.
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The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.