Is Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing Helpful or Harmful to HCM Families?

This recent article published in Nature discusses several real-life scenarios in which patients were mistakenly diagnosed with serious genetic cardiac conditions, including HCM, as a result of erroneous direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

These misdiagnoses directly resulted from misinterpretation of raw data by third party interpretation services that were working with raw data provided to them by direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies.

After medical testing, none of the patients discussed in the highlighted cases were ultimately found to have disease or be in need of medical intervention, though all underwent unnecessary medical testing and/or invasive procedures. Some even made radical lifestyle changes as a result of the erroneous genetic information.

This article demonstrates the unreliability of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, which has the potential to cause great upheaval to both patients and the medical system.

As always, patients seeking genetic testing should do their homework. Genetic testing for heart conditions is best when done by the experts – cardiac genetic counselors!

Continuing Genetic Counseling Helpful for Silent HCM Gene Carriers

An article entitled Psychosocial Impact of a Positive Gene Result for Asymptomatic Relatives at Risk of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy was published in this week’s Journal for Genetic Counseling.

The article focuses on the motivation for and the impact of HCM genetic testing on family members.  The 32 participants in the study all encouraged family members to undergo genetic testing with the hope that the knowledge gained would benefit family members down the line.  However, the study found that the psychological impact of a positive result, in the absence of overt disease, was highly variable. Some gene positive individuals perceived that they had an absolute risk of developing HCM, with substantial detriment to their lifestyle choices, while others were not at all affected by the result and made no lifestyle changes.

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