Over the past decade or so, in-home genetic testing or “DNA testing” has become available. Two of the better known companies are 23andMe and AncestryDNA. AncestryDNA is run by Ancestry.com. You can order a kit online, send in a small sample of saliva, and then receive results in a few weeks. Neither of these companies offers testing for BRCA mutations and other cancer-related mutations, though. They’re focused more on ethnic background (both tests) and overall health and wellness and physical traits (23andMe).
However, there are now companies that offer kits for at-home testing of BRCA1, BRCA2, and other genes that can have inherited mutations that increase lifetime risk of breast cancer (and possibly other cancers). Just two examples are Veritas Genetics and Color Genomics. Both companies require you to provide the name and contact information of your physician, who must approve your eligibility for the test. If you don’t have a physician, they can provide one who will review your case and order the test. (The company may contact you for further information.) Both companies can connect you with a genetic counselor if you don’t have one.
More at-home DNA testing companies are likely to emerge in the future. The main advantages are convenience and cost, as these tests tend to be less expensive than hospital-ordered tests, costing about $200-300. However, a major disadvantage can be missing out on in-depth, ongoing conversations with your physician and genetic counselor. Whatever option you choose, it’s important to understand what mutations are included in the test and what the results might mean, says genetic counselor Cristina Nixon.
“The main caution is to be aware of what you’re being tested for ahead of time. Don’t just do the test, but actually talk to somebody about what this test has included and what the results might mean. You need to be aware of what the implications are should one of the genes come back positive [for a mutation].”