Ed. Note: I was given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
As you know, I've had some health issues in the past and I've really wanted to drill down and figure out what was causing them. My mother has Sjogren's syndrome and considering that my symptoms are virtually identical to hers, I have a feeling that I have that as well, but instead, I was diagnosed with lupus. A few weeks ago I was offered the chance to receive a Futura Genetics DNA Test which tests for genetic susceptibility to 28 of the most common conditions, including autoimmune diseases such as lupus and MS, Alzheimer's, many types of cancer, and a smattering of other conditions.
Now this test doesn't tell you if you have any of these conditions, mind you. It merely tells you if you have any genetic predisposition to developing one of them. When you get your report, it shows you the average lifetime risk for a person of your gender developing that particular disorder and then it compares that to your individual risk given your gene variants. For example, the average lifetime risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease for women is 24.4%. However, because of the genetic markers tested, I am at a lower risk. My lifetime risk is 21%. The packet they give you stresses over and over that environmental factors play a huge role, so this result doesn't mean I can't develop the disease (in fact I have a 21% chance, don't I?) and that I should maintain a healthy lifestyle.
When I told my best friend I was getting this test, she immediately said she wouldn't want to know her own results. Seeing percentages higher than average would just freak her out. I'm actually the type of person that assumes if there's a disease out there, I'm susceptible to it, so I figured that this could only be comforting. Plus, my mother and grandmother both had breast cancer before the age of 50, so finding out I didn't have the breast cancer gene (which can raise your risk of developing breast cancer from 15% to 85%) would be comforting. If it turned out I did have the breast cancer gene, I figured it wouldn't freak me out too badly since I've always assumed I'd get breast cancer anyway.
While I was on vacation last week I received an email that my results were in. (The test itself was easy--I just provided a saliva sample and the results came a week or so later.) I opened up the report on my cellphone and scrolled through it. The disease that freaked me out the most was Alzheimers. Average risk = 20%. My risk = 7%. I pumped my arms in the air, feeling elated. I looked through the other conditions. Some I was slightly over the average risk. Some, like Alzheimers, significantly under. No breast cancer gene. Woop! No other numbers that were startlingly high. My lupus risk, a condition I've been diagnosed with: 0.2%, compared to an average lifetime risk of .91. So apparently I don't have the "lupus gene". But, like I said, that doesn't mean I don't have lupus. I've had two rheumatologists say I do, in fact. But assuming what ails me is lupus, I was really freaking unlucky to develop it. I had approximately a 1 in 500 chance of developing the condition. Now they don't test for Sjogren's, but it *really* makes me wonder what my results would be for that condition.
In the end, what did I think about the genetic testing? Well, first of all, it was insanely relieving to know I don't have the breast cancer gene. It was surprising that I am at a lower than average risk for virtually all the autoimmune disorders. I don't know if that's comforting or just ironically funny. I know one thing that worries doctors about people getting this sort of testing is that if the patient's risk is low, they might think they can't possibly get that disorder and then ignore their diet or continue smoking or whatever. To me, it had the exact opposite affect. My risk for heart disease, most cancers and all the other diseases was on the low side. That tells me that if I take care of myself: don't smoke, exercise, eat well, then I can live a long and healthy life.
The day after getting the test results I bought some new workout clothes and good running shoes. My first goal is to be able to jog a mile without stopping or walking. I have literally never done this ever. I can't say that this sort of testing is for everyone. After getting the Alzheimer's results it made me realize how devastated I would have been if the results had gone in the opposite direction. Regardless, though, I'm the type of person who would always rather have more information than less. So if you have a couple hundred extra dollars burning a hole in your pocket, there are certainly worse ways to spend your money.