Why do family members need genetic testing?
If you have a family member who has undergone genetic testing, you may be asked by your family member’s doctor to undergo a genetic test yourself. There are several possible reasons why this genetic test is recommended to you: (not all may apply to you)
- To provide more information for the DNA change that is of uncertain significance. If your family member’s genetic result involved a DNA change of uncertain significance, the doctor may recommend finding more evidence to help determine whether this DNA change is indeed disease-causing. One of the evidences includes checking on individuals within the family. The presence or absence of the DNA change in healthy or affected individuals within the family will help doctors determine if the DNA change is disease-causing or not.
- To test if you are at risk of developing kidney disease.
If your family member is deemed to have a genetic condition (that means disease-causing DNA changes have been found), the doctors may recommend other individuals in the family to undergo a genetic test to determine who else carries the same DNA change.
If you carry the same DNA change, you are risk of developing the same genetic condition. This can allow for early diagnosis, early treatment and may help you make life decisions.
- To test if you are a carrier of the DNA change. This is useful especially when you plan to have children. You can check if you and your partner are carriers for the same condition (e.g. Alport syndrome). This way, we can predict the likelihood of your children inheriting the genetic disease.
What does genetic testing for family members involve?
The process of genetic testing is the same as patients, involving steps 1 to 6 .
You will have a pre-test counselling session with the doctor or genetic counsellor to know about the risks, implications and costs of genetic testing. If you choose to proceed with genetic testing, a one-time blood or saliva collection will be required.
The genetic test is not the same as the one that your affected family member has undergone. This is a simplified version of the genetic test because only the specific DNA change is tested. The genetic test will not involve other genes or other areas of the culprit gene.
A post-test genetic counselling session will be performed for the doctor to explain the results to you, followed by the subsequent plans.
You can decline genetic testing after genetic counselling, or withdraw your consent if the test has not been performed yet.