A Welsh private general practice is the first facility outside the US to offer a highly-personalised genetic testing service for genetic anomalies that may increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Unlike other genetic testing services, ScreenGene by iGP offers patients pre-test counselling, state-of-the-art genetic screening, and post-test counselling, as well as referrals to an NHS or private consultant if a test yields a positive result. The test is future proof because as the patient’s DNA is kept in a system that is regularly updated with new scientific discoveries — if a risk is identified in the future, the system will prompt a doctor to re-contact the patient.
A wide range of factors can lead to cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to Dr Joanna Longstaffe, medical director at ScreenGene by iGP and genetic anomalies are among them. If a patient’s genetic structure shows one of these anomalies—or mutations—he or she is more likely to develop one of these conditions.
“With new medical procedures that can identify diseases in their early stages, as well as new technologies that promise more effective treatment, it pays for patients to undergo advanced genetic testing for these conditions. In almost every case, detecting the disease early improves the chance of full recovery — often dramatically”, says Longstaffe. “That is why we are so committed to bringing this new technology and essential supporting counselling services to Wales and then the whole of the UK”,
The procedure is non-invasive and only requires simple preparation — only refraining from eating, drinking, chewing gum, using mouthwash, brushing teeth, or smoking 30 minutes before providing a saliva sample. In fact, says Longstaffe, patients can collect their own sample in the comfort of their own home.
While genetic tests are available elsewhere, the IGP service will, Dr Longstaffe hopes, give patients a much better understanding in advance of what the test might mean and, in the event of an anomaly being detected, quick referrals to expert follow-up.
“As a GP, I’m very concerned that we don’t alarm patients unnecessarily or overload them with difficult-to-interpret information. Our counselling service will make sure that we don’t cause any unnecessary alarm and that the information we offer is actionable.”
Patients with an established risk of disease, for example, because of family history, may be able to obtain genetic screening on the NHS.
“If patients don’t get genetic testing”,
“they have no way to know if they might be at risk due to a genetic predisposition”. She concludes, “These easy, relatively cheap tests can save patients from years of needless suffering”.
The cardiac genetic test analyses 77 genes that affect cardiac development. It can screen for the likelihood of certain heart muscle and rhythm conditions, aortic issues, and the tendency to develop high cholesterol and blood clots. The cancer genetic test analyses 30 genes that research shows increase the risk of certain cancers, such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and uterine cancer. The combined test also identifies whether a patient has genes that affect the body’s response to certain medications, including anti-depressants.