The Advantages and Disadvantages of Genetic Testing for Kids and Teens

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Genetic Testing for Kids and Teens

What is the value in genetic testing?

If you could see into the future of your health, would you? As the medical world continues to discover new links between individual genes and health risks, the wealth of insight hidden in your chromosomes may be the closest we’ve come to legitimizing fortunetelling as a profession. Your unique human genome is your personal crystal ball, swirling with predictions for the future of your health. Through DNA testing, medical professionals can help you navigate inherited genes associated with vulnerabilities to illness or mutated genes known to increase the risk of developing genetic disorders.

While not all gene mutations and hereditary diseases are understood, genetic screenings often provide essential information to help physicians pinpoint and understand the cause of an illness. With this knowledge, physicians can suggest customized preventative care plans to help patients lessen the effects of current health problems and avoid chronic medical issues in the future.

For parents who are concerned for their infant, child, or teenager’s health, genetic testing may be useful to help identify inherited or abnormal changes in a child’s chromosomes, proteins, and individual genes. Genetic screenings, also known as predictive testing, are becoming a popular option for parents to be. For couples who worry about passing along hereditary illnesses or medically significant mutations, investigating their individual carrier status can help them better understand any future health problems their children may face. When carrier status test results show potentially harmful hereditary genes, parents are given the option to test their newborn’s DNA for any inherited genetic disorders or complications.

Since prevention and early detection is key to successfully treating many illnesses and disorders, genetic testing in infants provides an incredible opportunity for parents and physicians to improve the child’s quality of life. Parents who suffer from hereditary illness can now help their children avoid unnecessary medical struggles by working with their doctor to understand the best preventative care options for their newborns. From infants to adolescents, parents can use genetic testing to confirm or rule out a suspected diagnosis, connect the dots of current symptoms, predict susceptibility of late onset disorders in high risk patients, and detect the risk of specific contributing factors to known hereditary disorders.

Is predictive testing ethical for kids and teens?

Genetic testing is not innately harmful. However, the results can cause emotional duress for both parents and children. Understandably, many people would prefer to not know if they are likely to inherit an incurable disease. For parents who opt to screen their children for genetic mutations, it can be a heavy burden to bear. Parents who discover their children may likely suffer from an untreatable disease in the future often feel hopeless after learning their child’s lifespan may be shortened.

On top of personally processing the information, parents are placed in a tough spot when it comes to discussing test results with their children. Is it best to prepare a child for struggles they may face by divulging the truth of their test results? Is it wrong to not inform your child of their genetic mutations, so they can make the necessary health decisions to help prevent or lessen the symptoms of a chronic illness? On the contrary, is it best to not tell your child of potential health risks and possibly lose their trust if they choose to undergo a genetic screening as an adult? Or worse, will hiding potentially hazardous results and postponing treatment harm their wellbeing in the future? As many parents are quickly discovering, the issue isn’t clearcut.

Studies have shown many teenagers would prefer to know the results of their DNA screening. Many parents are already witnessing an increase in older children and teens inquiring about genetic testing. As genetic testing becomes more commonplace, we can expect the number of curious teens to increase. While this may not seem like an immediate threat, anyone with children can tell you techsavvy kids are quick to find new discoveries on the Internet. For some teenagers, knowing they can prevent or reduce severe symptoms of a disease is quite empowering. For others, the accompanying fear and anxiety may pose a greater risk to their health. Due to the personal nature of individual situations, handling the ethics of genetic testing is best done on a casebycase basis.

Preventative care is key to your child’s longevity and well-being, regardless of whether or not you partake in predictive testing.

In the past, finding proper treatment often relied on a physician’s ability to make educated guesses based on a patient’s symptoms and medical history. By analyzing known contributing genetic factors, genetic testing offers promise to expedite appropriate treatment programs and narrow the selection of viable prescriptions and therapy options for patients. For example, some gene mutations result in malabsorption of specific nutrients. If you are aware of the nutrients your body can’t absorb, you can supplement with vitamins or enzyme treatments to help alleviate your symptoms and prevent mutations from developing into a chronic illness. With detailed information on your genetic makeup, physicians can more accurately recommend customized dietary and physical health recommendations, as certain foods or physical activity may be detrimental to certain patients with scientifically understood genetic mutations.

Of course, it’s important to stress genetic mutations or abnormalities are not necessarily a diagnosis. Many people never experience symptoms or severe complications from mutations or abnormalities found in their genes. While test results should never convince you of a diseaseriddled future, being aware of hereditary strengths and weaknesses can encourage you to learn new health habits so you can avoid future illness.

Preventative care is the best solution for successfully treating or avoiding future illness. Perhaps the most important role of predictive testing is helping physicians understand a patient’s detailed genetic makeup, so they can provide an optimal preventative care treatment plan. For example, if a parent suffers from a chronic disease caused by a known genetic mutation, screening your child’s DNA may be beneficial to help predict or prevent the possibility and severity of the inherited mutation. By taking preventative health measures from an early age, proper treatment can prevent certain gene mutations from developing into a chronic illness. For children with diseases like autism, genetic testing can inform their pediatrician of specific contributing genetic factors influencing the severity of their illness. Knowing what specific DNA chromosomes are contributing to a child’s autism helps the physician provide a customized treatment plan for the child’s personal health needs.

If you’re interested in genetic testing, affordable options are available. Physicians generally do not offer comprehensive genetic testing of all 23 chromosomes, as costs to the patient would likely be exorbitant. Luckily, there are many credible online companies offering full genetic testing services to the public for a fraction of the cost. With genetic testing services available online, more families are able to use this valuable resource as a means to discuss optimal preventative care with their primary physician.

While new developments in genetic testing continue to spark further debate, it’s easy to agree any contribution to improve preventative health care is ultimately beneficial for patients. Preventative care is at the core of helping children and teens grow into healthy adults. Regardless of a parent’s decision to partake in genetic testing, preventative care is always recommended to help control unexpected infections and improve the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic conditions.

Kids and Teens Medical Group believes strongly in the importance of readily available quality medical care to maintain your child’s health. We are committed to delivering comprehensive preventative care with same day and walkin appointments. To help you provide a healthy future for your child, we offer nutrition education for families every Monday at our Pasadena location.

Our board certified doctors provide pediatric care to infants, children and adolescents. Please Click Here for more information on our pediatric medical services, or Contact Us online if you’d like to schedule an appointment or learn more about our hours and services. To speak with a staff member at either of our locations, please call the numbers listed below. To help our team better assist you, please mention this blog post and any questions you may have when calling our office. To reach our customer care team, please call (818) 361-5437.