Genetic testing is becoming more recognized among the general public, due in part to news reports and celebrity endorsements. Now, people are seeking to understand cancer risks and prevention measures through genetic information. There are many companies that ask for a mere mouth swab and deliver insight into a person’s DNA. As this becomes more commonplace, those with familial predisposition to cancer will look for ways to understand their own genetic results. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an at-home test identifying some—but not all—breast cancer genes.
“This test provides information to certain individuals who may be at increased breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer risk and who might not otherwise get genetic screening. It is a step forward in the availability of direct-to-consumer genetic tests, but it has a lot of caveats,” Donald St. Pierre, acting director of the Office of In-Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said.
The FDA reminds users that the test is not a substitute for a trained healthcare provider. It may help patients understand their genetic and lifestyle factors for cancer incidents, but it doesn’t offer the complete picture. Genetic testing is crucial for patients with a family history of cancer—not just for the patients but for their family members as well. It’s important that oncology nurses recognize the role they play in genetics education and testing recommendations.