Genetic screening: Can we handle the truth?
Two news items appearing in my inbox recently made me think hard about the value of blood tests for scary diseases. The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, responding to direct-to-consumer ads for tests to detect the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that predispose certain women to breast cancer, notes that women who get positive results likely need counseling to take the news in stride.
And the L.A. Times reports that last year's study that showed that people who learned they had a gene linked to Alzheimer's handled the news well has been criticized lately for the way the study was designed.
To me, the two scenarios are different. If a woman learns she's at heightened risk of breast cancer, there are some measures she can take -- lifestyle changes and increased surveillance -- to perhaps alter her fate. But we don't yet know much about how to ward off Alzheimer's disease. Frankly, if Alzheimer's is in my future, I'd just as soon not know about it yet.
How about you? Have you undergone or considered genetic screening for a disease that runs in your family? How did you prepare yourself to cope with what you learned?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
January 18, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Alzheimers/Dementia , Cancer , Prevention
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