Genetic Testing Informs Medical Choices

Genetic Testing Informs Medical Choices

Genetic testing for everything from rare disorders to common cancers empowers people to make informed medical decisions — possibly preventing serious health conditions in the future. Based on test results, people may choose to undergo more frequent screenings, reproductive treatments, or preventive surgery.

Nadim Ilbawi, MD, a family medicine physician at NorthShore University HealthSystem, offers patients genetic testing in a collaboration between NorthShore and Sema4, a genetic testing platform. The testing includes genetic counseling services to help people interpret their test results, understand their genetic risk, and decide on an appropriate screening or treatment plan.

Yet, genes don’t have all the answers when it comes to health. Receiving a negative result doesn’t mean someone is risk-free. “It is still absolutely essential to focus on environment, lifestyle, and other factors that may turn on, or activate, certain genes that impact health or that independently impact our well-being and longevity,” Ilbawi says.

Still, Ilbawi recommends genetic testing for all adults. Even if you don’t act on the information, you may have a heritable variation that becomes relevant for other family members. Plus, he says, “The knowledge you gain from this information is actionable and puts patients in more control of their health.” 

Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2022 print issue