Guidance counselors for your genes?

At-home DNA tests, and disease-specific tests, make genetic counselors more important than ever

Genetic counselors can help anyone understand their genetic risks, or results of genetic tests.

Genetic counselors can help anyone understand their genetic risks, or results of genetic tests.

Once upon a time, getting your DNA tested was a rare thing – as rare as the genetic diseases that the tests tried to detect.

But no more.

These days:

  • You can order a kit through the mail that can tell you what diseases you’re at risk of developing down the road.
  • Your doctor can order dozens of tests to look for specific changes or variations in your DNA that might be causing your symptoms, or putting you at risk of future problems.
  • Or if you’re pregnant, you can have your doctor draw a vial of your blood, which you can send in to get information about the DNA of your future child.

And the ability to personalize treatment based on the exact gene variations you carry in your body is speeding up for many conditions.

How is an ordinary person supposed to make sense of all this genetic information?

And what do you do if you take a test and it shows you have a high risk or a current problem?

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Supreme Court ruling on gene patents could mean more opportunities for patients

Dr. Merajver (right) and genetic counselor Kara Milliron meet with a patient.

Dr. Merajver (right) and genetic counselor Kara Milliron meet with a patient.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled unanimously that isolated human genes cannot be patented. The gene patents case involved Myriad Genetics, the company that holds patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are linked to high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

We talked to Sofia D. Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Breast and Ovarian Risk Evaluation Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, who has been doing research on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer for 20 years.

mCancer Partner: What does this ruling mean? Continue reading