Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy has put a national spotlight on genetic testing. However, this kind of testing isn't just for breast cancer, or the right choice for everyone.
Jolie chose to remove both her breasts after genetic testing revealed she had an 87 percent chance of getting cancer. Now, many are focusing on whether they should have their genes tested.
Heather Creswick is a genetic counselor at the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
"I've had people stop me on the street and in the office (and ask) ‘Hey, what do you think about Angelina Jolie?'"
Creswick says genetic counseling is for people who have a strong family history of cancer, or other types of disorders. The first step in the process is a long discussion about who's had 'what' in your family's health history.
"Family history is something not everyone talks about. Certainly it's uncommon to know a lot about your parents and grandparent's generation," continued Creswick.
If it's likely you could have a gene mutation, genetic testing is an option. However, not everyone may decide to have their blood sent to labs around the country. That's because no result will provide a definite answer on whether you'll become ill.
"That's why counseling is really important because this testing isn't for everyone. A lot of people don't want to know their risk," explained Creswick.
Even if you have a high chance of developing cancer or other disorders, it may never happen. In that case, professionals say prevention, like routine screenings, is always a positive route. Some other kinds of genetic testing deal with prenatal care, to see whether your unborn child may be at risk for anything. Genetics can also test other kinds of disorders or syndromes like sickle cell anemia.
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