November 2019

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21 t m c » p u l s e | n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 9 While genetic testing can provide multiple benefits and insights into suspected genetic conditions and disorders, it also has its limitations. Direct-to-consumer genetic tests are not meant to be used as a comprehensive, clinical diagnosis; results are an approximation at best. "Some of the direct-to-consumer companies, like 23andme, test for the BRCA mutation, which if you have it gives you a significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. But there are thousands of mutations in that gene that are associated with that risk; 23andme is only testing for three of them," McGuire said. "Not having pre-test counseling, somebody may not fully appreciate that and they may get a result back that could be negative without knowing that there are 997 other variants, to throw out a number, that they need to look at it if they're really concerned about their family history." Ultimately, experts advise people to do their homework beforehand—to know what results they might get back and what's being tested, to understand the limitations of the tests—and to rely on health care professionals for guidance. "Genetics is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to our health in most circumstances," McGuire said. "In most cases, you're looking at risk prediction and probabilities. People need to take into consider- ation all of the other factors—like their family history, their lifestyle, their symptoms, their environment, all of the things that play into what makes us healthy and makes us sick." Heiss has no regrets about taking the time to see genetic experts at the VA, who explained her test results. Because Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of disorders, her geneticist is currently running a series of tests to identify exactly which form she has. But at least now, Heiss said, she is equipped with more information about what's going on with her body and why. "I know preventative measures I can take to improve my overall quality of life and I'm now also more aware of the kinds of complications I can run into," Heiss added. "I've been able to better prepare myself for struggles I may have in the future while making sure I can keep living my life without putting my body at risk for injury." C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Houston TMC Pulse_ad_8_2019.pdf 1 8/13/19 2:27 PM

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