Disclaimer: The name of the patient interviewee has been changed to protect their privacy.
When people first hear about genetic testing, the general consensus would either be confusion, uncertainty, and even fear. Since one of the primary purposes of this procedure is to detect inherited gene mutations that might increase one’s cancer risk, people avoid the subject altogether since it’s often viewed as a complex and complicated topic. After all, nobody likes talking about cancer.
Despite more Singaporeans going for genetic testing to improve their health outcomes, there are still negative misconceptions, which could potentially lead to harmful effects including misinformation.
Fortunately, we sat down with Pamela, a Curie Genetics patient on her genetic counselling journey and how clinical genetic testing has impacted her life for the better.
On Pamela and Her Journey Towards Genetic Testing
Most people think they need to have an existing condition or prior illness in order to get started on genetic testing—this is false. Prior to discovering Curie Genetics, Pamela was recovering from severe sepsis during the early stages of her chemotherapy cycle, a life-threatening complication where an existing infection prompts the immune system to kick into overdrive and lead to organ failure, tissue damage, and even death.
For someone like Pamela who was a previous flight stewardess at Singapore Airlines, her condition forced her to make certain lifestyle changes that directly impacted her. In fact, she could barely move after going through the septic shock. This life-threatening incident caused Pamela to turn to genetic counselling.
On How Testing Can Give You Clarity & Peace of Mind
After the biopsy results were out, a rare and peculiar tumour was identified to be present. From there, genetic testing was recommended for further analysis on what could potentially benefit Pamela’s cancer treatment.
While it is normal to feel flustered, worried, and confused with a biopsy result like that, Pamela took it in her stride and actually gained more peace of mind with regard to her condition; like she knew she was in safe hands. When asked what her genetic counselling experience was like, it was nothing short of “swift, casual, and informative”.
“I was told that my genetic results were rather rare, in a good way. That’s like striking the lottery—just like how I ended up with severe sepsis and recovered.” Pamela, Curie Genetic Patient
Based on the patient’s biopsy results, our genetic counsellors will then create a tailormade treatment plan according to what’s most suitable for your condition. With cancer, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why we’re committed to finding the best one for you in the most efficient way possible.
On Getting Her Family Involved
Especially for traditional households, there are a lot of reservations surrounding genetic testing. On most occasions, immediate family members who are invited to come in for genetic testing are reluctant to go through with it due to financial and emotional factors like not being able to afford the treatment plan, the fear of positive results, and even genetic discrimination.
These individuals steer clear of testing of any kind to avoid any negative outcomes that may arise. However, this whole “what you don’t know won’t kill you” mindset can do more harm than good for you.
Lucky for Pamela, her family had zero qualms about genetic counselling and were happy to jump onboard with the entire process. “There were no difficulties at all; they were all in”. Undergoing genetic testing can help families understand their genetic information and overall cancer risk, which can help them prepare for the future. But we know that this is a difficult conversation to have for any family.
If you’re struggling to encourage your immediate relatives to get tested, consider these factors:
- Separate fact over fiction: Present the facts and explain how genetic testing can be beneficial for the whole family in terms of your cancer risk.
- Introduce the matter at hand in a delicate manner: This could be something your family has never heard of. Avoid using a harsh tone and complicated words when communicating this with them.
- Create a safe environment for them to express their concerns: Not everyone may be on board instantly. Allow them to ask questions and express their concerns, and reassure them on the safety of genetic testing.
On What Advice She Has For Skeptics: “Thank God there is genetic testing!”
“Think of genetic testing as just another test that will help you make an informed decision about your treatment plan”. While clinical genetic testing is clearly a more complex process than your average health procedures, thinking of it as just a regular physical assessment can help patients alleviate their stress and anxiety.
Sometimes, these doubts and reservations are subconsciously self-inflicted. When we actively educate ourselves and focus on the positive outcomes that may arise with genetic testing, there would be no reason to fear or worry any longer.
“Just like a physical examination or medical assessment, think of genetic testing as just another test that will help you make a more informed decision about your treatment plan.” — Pamela on what advice she has for people with reservations on genetic testing
Take the First Step in Your Genetic Testing Journey
From the get-go, Pamela went into the process of genetic testing like a champ. She came in with an open mind and a clear head, which is exactly how we want our patients to feel the moment they walk through our doors.
As genetic counsellors, our goal is to give you the confidence that we’ll find and create the best treatment plan tailored just for you, regardless of the results. Remember: we are here to guide you at every step of your care journey.
If you’re ready to get started on your journey towards genetic testing or have any questions, please feel free to contact CURIE Genetics at 6259 5538 and we’ll be in touch.