Have you ever wondered why doctors ask whether heart disease, high blood pressure, or cholesterol problems run in your family? The reason is that people can have a genetic predisposition to certain ailments. If your mother had Alzheimer’s, for example, you have an increased risk of developing the same neurological disorder in your lifetime.
Your DNA determines everything from the color of your eyes to whether or not you have diabetes. Family history is an archaic way of gaining insight into this information. Apart from this, doctors only have a few general methods to determine what you’re suffering from. They can note your current set of symptoms and family’s medical history, and then run you through a series of diagnostic tests.
But now, with the technological advancements in DNA testing, collecting a sample and sequencing your genome is a real possibility for the future of healthcare.
Why DNA Testing is Important
When it comes to the treatment of severe disorders, the earlier it’s discovered, the better. Pancreatic cancer, a particularly nasty disease, has a dismal 5-year survival rate. Stage 1 pancreatic cancer has a 14% survival rate, while stage 4 pancreatic cancer has just 1%. While both statistics are haunting, the importance of early detection cannot be understated. DNA testing can be that needed detection.
The same goes for the opposite case. With DNA testing, you can determine what disorders you’re not genetically predisposed to. This will help avoid unnecessary checkups and screenings, and these resources can be reallocated to where they’re needed: monitoring and preventing diseases.
How DNA Testing Works
If you recall back to high school biology class, you might remember that DNA is housed inside the nucleus of the cell. You are made up of trillions of these cells, and that includes your saliva, skin, blood, and hair, any of which can be used for a DNA test. The most common procedure for obtaining DNA comes from a buccal smear, where a cotton swab collects a sample of cells from the inside of your cheeks.
If you’re considering receiving a DNA test, the process is as follows:
The doctor will confirm consent, inform you of the risks involved, and collect a sample.
With your DNA sample, the lab will either run narrowed tests (to determine specific conditions) or will sequence the DNA.
Once sequenced, computers will analyze the DNA for variants.
Comparing the variants with other people’s DNA, computers assess risks and interpret results.
The doctor then offers your results and performs any further testing needed to assess certain disorders.
The Healthcare Industry: How DNA is Changing it
As mentioned above, doctors can only assess a patient based on their present condition and referencing their health against their family history. But DNA testing could revolutionize the way the healthcare industry works. Instead of working on the symptoms level, doctors could work on a genetic level. Instead of running full-body scans or waiting until symptoms present themselves, doctors can prevent diseases before they develop.
The intervention that is possible with some of the most detrimental diseases is what makes DNA testing revolutionary. They can help with some of the major health crises of the modern age, including:
Cancer and cancer treatment
Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders
Not only is cancer and cancer treatment terrible stress on a person’s physical health, but the financial damage can make the situation miserable. The average cancer treatment costs around $150,000. For most people, this is a soul-crushing amount of money. Even with great insurance, the prices are extraordinary.
DNA testing, on the other hand, costs the patient a minimal amount, and it is sometimes covered by health insurance. Having the ability to know whether or not you’re genetically predisposed to a certain type of cancer can increase the chances of catching it early. Doing so could mean cancer treatments of $3,000 versus $300,000.
Check with your health insurance to see if DNA testing and certain types of cancer screenings are free.
Alzheimer’s and Neurological Disorders
Watching a loved one’s memories slowly drift away or suffering from it yourself can be a psychological nightmare. Because of the complexity of the brain, curing neurological disorders are highly unlikely. All people can do are take the proper steps to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other cardiac diseases affect a large percentage of Americans and are due to both environmental and genetic factors. Heart disease alone is the leading cause of death—averaging to about 1 in every 4 deaths for both men and women. Having your DNA tested can mean an increased awareness of these disorders and how to prevent them.
How TPIA Helps its Members
Trucking Proud Insurance Agency offers its executive members access to these services, allowing them to take control of their health. Not only will you know what types of medical conditions you’re genetically predisposed to, but you will also find out what you’re unlikely to have.
This can prevent spending excess money on checkups and screenings and will help allocate those resources where they’re needed: disease intervention. Talk to your TPIA representative today about genetic testing and how you can benefit.
WebMD. Mom Has Alzheimer's? Your Risk May Be High. https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20110718/mom-has-alzheimers-your-risk-may-be-high#1
Healthline. Pancreatic Cancer: Prognosis and Life Expectancy https://www.healthline.com/health/pancreatic-cancer/prognosis-life-expectancy#outlook
AARP. The High Cost of Cancer Treatment https://www.aarp.org/money/credit-loans-debt/info-2018/the-high-cost-of-cancer-treatment.html
WebMD. Cancer Screening and Prevention Under Health Reform https://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/webmd-cancer-screening-and-prevention#1
CDC. Heart Disease Fact Sheet. https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm