The FDA only recently started regulating genetic testing, but there are still some less-than-credible labs with a reputation for giving flawed or downright false results ... which is scary considering people make life-changing medical decisions, like getting a mastectomy, based on these results.
The first time Marla Strick sent her DNA to a genetic testing lab the results were confusing, until she took them to certified genetic counselor Mary Freivogel at Invision Sally Jobe.
Mary Freivogel said, "What's frightening is that, first of all, I feel like the technology used by this lab was not good itself, but then the interpretation was not good either."
Results from the first genetic lab showed Strick didn't have anything to worry about. But a second test from a more credible lab found a gene mutation that doubles Strick's chances of developing breast cancer. Even though she's only 34, Strick will now begin yearly mammograms, something she wouldn't have done if she had relied on results from the first lab.
Strick said, "That could've been, like I said, completely life-changing in multiple ways. If it would've came back with BRCA and I went and got a double mastectomy and then it was actually negative, that's huge."
The FDA has started reviewing the accuracy of genetic tests and says they should only be done on the advice of a doctor or certified genetic counselor. But thousands of home DNA kits are sold online. Before you buy one, first, make sure the lab is certified by the clinical laboratory improvement amendment. Second, ask a genetic counselor to interpret your results. And third, avoid companies that push vitamins or other products as a way to prevent disease.
It's also preferable to find a legitimate genetic counselor who doesn't have financial ties to the company doing the testing. You can check out the national society of genetic counselors at nsgc.org to find one near you.