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Should I have genetic testing?

You may choose to have genetic testing if you are concerned that you have an increased risk for having or getting a disease that has a genetic cause. The information you obtain from the tests may help you make decisions about your life. For example:

  • If tests show that you have an increased risk for passing on a disease to your child, you may choose to have more genetic testing while you are pregnant (prenatal testing). Or you may decide to adopt a child.
  • If tests show that you have an increased risk for developing a disease such as breast cancer, you may make decisions that help lower your risk of breast cancer.
  • You may feel reassured if the tests are normal.

You may decide to have a genetic test during pregnancy to find out whether your fetus has a disorder, such as Down syndrome. Information obtained from the test can help you decide how to manage your pregnancy.

Genetic testing can be used to find out the identity of a child's father (paternity). It can also be used in crime scene investigation.

What are the main types of genetic testing?

There are six main types of genetic testing:

  • Carrier identification camera.gif determines whether people who have a family history of a specific disease or who are in a group that has an increased chance for that disease are likely to pass on that disease to their children. Information obtained from this type of testing can help guide a couple as they make decisions about pregnancy.
  • Prenatal testing determines whether a fetus has a disorder, such as Down syndrome. Information gained from this type of testing can help guide decisions about how to manage a pregnancy, including the decision about whether to end the pregnancy.
  • Newborn screening checks for various metabolic diseases, such as phenylketonuria (PKU). Information obtained from newborn screening can help guide medical treatment to ensure the best possible outcome for the baby.
  • Late-onset disease testing determines whether you carry a genetic change that increases your risk for developing a disease, such as breast cancer or Huntington's disease, later in life. This might be of interest if you have a relative who has the disease. Information from this type of testing can help you make decisions about preventing or managing the disease.
  • Genetic identification (DNA fingerprinting) can be used to determine paternity, help solve crimes, and identify a body.
  • Compatibility testing looks at genetic markers to see if an organ for transplant is suitable for a person who needs it.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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