If someone in your family has cancer, could having a DNA test help you understand your own risk and help you take action to reduce that risk?
Genomic testing involves sequencing all of your DNA and then looking at genes that are associated with an increased risk of specific diseases. This type of testing is very new in Australia.
“Genomic testing can tell us if you have a variation that causes an increased risk of a condition, such as cancer or heart disease,” explains genetic counsellor Ebony Richardson.
“As a genetic counsellor, our job is to support you through this process and to explain what these risks mean. If you are found to have a higher genetic risk of a condition, then this doesn’t mean you will definitely develop the condition. However, if you do have an increased genetic risk, there may be specific actions you can take that can reduce your chances of developing the disease, manage it better, or possibly even avoid getting it altogether.”
“Once your genetic information has been captured through genomic testing, you can access the information at any time throughout your life, whenever it is needed to guide decisions about your health,” says Ebony.
Having genomic testing also alerts you to risks that may affect your family – your children, brothers and sisters or parents.
The Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney is a global leader in genomics. Garvan’s clinically accredited subsidiary, Genome.One, has built on this expertise and made a genomic testing service available to healthy adults for the first time in Australia.
With the support of your GP you can have your DNA analysed to reveal whether you are at increased risk for more than 50 different diseases or medical conditions.
Before the test you’ll have genetic counselling, where you’ll be asked about your personal and family health history, and find out what the potential results could mean for you and your family. You’ll then give a blood sample and your DNA will be sequenced and analysed to look for any changes that relate to certain conditions. Once the analysis is complete, a genetic health professional will go through your results with you, explain what they mean and discuss possible actions you can take.
“Most people will find that they are not at an increased risk of these conditions. But if, for example, you are found to be at a higher risk of a particular type of cancer, you might need more frequent screening that starts at a younger age than someone with average risk. This screening can potentially pick up the cancer early, at a point when it is treatable or even preventable.”
The test results also indicate how your genes may affect your response to certain medications, because your genetic makeup can influence how your body responds to drugs.
“These results can help your doctor prescribe the medications that are most appropriate for you both now and in the future,” says Ebony Richardson.
Personal genomic testing is not yet covered by Medicare or health insurance in Australia. Find out the costs and how you can arrange a genomic test at Genome.One here.