Genetic Testing: Exploring the Blueprint for Your Body

We all inherit a set of blueprints that controls how our body looks and functions. This blueprint is made up of chromosomes. Chromosomes, which are found in our cells, are made up of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) compacted with the help of basic proteins. Genes are parts of chromosomes. They tell cells which proteins to make, when and how much based, on the body’s need. Genes are responsible for traits that are passed from one generation to the next. These include hair color, eye color, height and even things like being able to curl your tongue.

What’s genetic testing?

Genetic testing is the use of medical tests to look for changes in chromosome, gene, or gene function. These tests are usually requested by a doctor or other health care provider. They’re done on a small sample of body fluid or tissue.

Many types of genetic tests are used today, and more are being developed. Testing options are complex. And test results often need an expert interpretation. We suggest working with a genetic professional who can evaluate personal and family history.

 

HAP coverage for genetic testing

At HAP, we know genetic testing can be a vital part of health care. Your HAP benefits may cover some genetic tests. To make sure you get the right service and help understanding the results, HAP may also cover genetic counseling.  Call the Customer Service number on your HAP ID card for coverage information or help finding a specialist.

 

Why you might want to do genetic testing

Genetic testing can serve several purposes. It can:

  • Help a doctor diagnose a condition.
  • Predict your chances of developing a condition or passing one on to your children.
  • Help providers know which medications might work best for you.

Types of testing

  • Diagnostic - A diagnostic test is used to find out if a genetic condition is causing disease symptoms. Results may help a provider personalize treatment and manage a disorder more precisely.
  • Genetic Risk Assessment - Some people have a higher than average risk for a disease. This can be caused by their genes and family medical history. Genetic tests look for gene mutations that may predict a person’s risk. Based on the results, a provider may suggest lifestyle changes or health care strategies to help prevent the disease. BRCA (BReast CAncer susceptibility testing), for example, can help predict the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Less than ten percent of all cancers are thought to be associated with inherited gene mutation.

  • Carrier - It’s possible to have a defective gene but not ever develop the disorder. This is called being a carrier. A carrier can pass the gene on to their children who may develop the disorder. Or the children may become carriers and pass it on to their children. Carrier testing tells people if they have the genetic mutation for a disease. This testing can help with family planning decisions.

  • Pharmacogenetic - This testing gives information about how a person’s body processes certain medicines. It can help health care providers choose medicines that work the best with a person’s genetic makeup. Testing can help predict an individual’s response to a drug. Although very promising, this type of testing will need more research before it can be widely used. A variation of this testing examines genetic makeup of tumors to help identify the most effective cancer treatment.

  • Prenatal - Testing during pregnancy can show if the fetus may have a genetic disorder. Screening tests identify possible disorders. Diagnostic tests detect actual disorders. If a screening test is positive, a provider may suggest diagnostic testing.

  • Newborn screening - Each state requires that newborn babies are tested for some genetic diseases before baby goes home from the hospital. These are conditions that can cause severe medical problems if not treated. But they can often be safely and easily treated when the baby is very young. A couple of examples are PKU (Phenylketonuria) and BTD (Biotinidase deficiency). PKU can cause severe mental retardation and seizures. Fortunately, it’s treatable with the right diet. BTD can cause hearing and vision loss as well as immune system and nerve problems. If it’s caught early it can be treated with biotin, a type of vitamin.

  • Pre-implantation - In vitro fertilization is the process of combining sperm and an egg in a dish and implanting the resulting embryo in the womb. The embryo is tested before it’s implanted to make sure it doesn’t carry genes that could cause disease.  These processes often are not covered by insurance.

Where is testing done?

The Henry Ford Center for Precision Diagnostics offers many genetic tests. These include technologically advanced Next Generation DNA Sequencing. HFCPD offers testing for chromosomal abnormalities, inherited genetic disorders, cancer predisposition gene analysis, and tumor testing for targeted therapy.  We work with them to provide high-quality, cost-effective genetic services to HAP members. Some proprietary tests are only available at specific laboratories.

 

How do I know if I need genetic testing?

Generally, your doctor will suggest any tests you may need. But you can use this information to talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have. Your doctor may recommend a genetic counselor to help you make decisions and find services. HAP’s experts evaluate new genetic services to decide if they are medically necessary. Our goal is to make sure our members get the most appropriate and effective care.

 

Do This If your doctor recommends a specific test, you can call the Customer Service number on your HAP ID card to find out if it is covered.

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