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Genetic Testing

Advantages & Disadvantages of Genetic Testing


While there are benefits to genetic testing, it’s important to keep in mind that there are also limitations. A positive result from cancer genetic testing doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop cancer but can weigh heavily on your mind or the minds of your loved ones. On the other hand, a negative result doesn’t guarantee that you won’t develop cancer. Read on to learn some pros and cons of genetic testing for cancer. 

Some advantages of genetic testing include:

  • A sense of relief from uncertainty
  • Reduce the risk of cancer by making certain lifestyle changes if you have a positive result
  • In-depth knowledge about your cancer risk
  • Information to help make informed medical and lifestyle decisions
  • Opportunity to help educate other family members about potential risk
  • Earlier detection, which increases the chance of a successful outcome

Some disadvantages, or risks, that come from genetic testing can include:

  • Testing may increase anxiety and stress for some individuals
  • Testing does not eliminate a person’s risk for cancer
  • Results in some cases may return inconclusive or uncertain

Will Insurance Cover Genetic Testing?

Health insurance plans will often cover the costs of genetic testing when it is recommended by your healthcare provider. However, because policies differ among insurance providers, it is wise to contact your insurance company beforehand to confirm genetic testing coverage.

Genetic Discrimination Concerns

Both federal and state laws exist to protect patients from health insurance discrimination based on genetic test results. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed into federal law in 2008. GINA prohibits health insurers and most employers from discriminating against individuals based on genetic information (including the results of genetic tests and family history information). According to GINA, health insurance companies cannot consider genetic information to be a preexisting condition; nor can they use it to make decisions regarding coverage or rates. GINA also makes it illegal for employers to use genetic information in making decisions about your employment. GINA does not offer protections for life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance. Your state may have additional laws. For more information about GINA, visit