If you could know your disease risk, if you could discover the best medication for you, would you?
DNA. We all have heard of it — and probably learned how to say it in school, even if we can’t spell it (deoxyribonucleic acid). We all have it. And each of us has DNA so unique that no two of us share the same complete genetic code. Fifty percent from mom, 50 percent from dad, 100 percent you -– 100 percent individual.
With the discovery of DNA has come DNA testing, or genetic testing. The ability to genetic test has truly changed life, health and care. Rather than trying to guess what is going on, we can actually test to find out some of the answers. Maybe not all of the answers, but every day we get closer. Genetic testing helps find answers that can save – a person or possibly multiple people.
Through genetic testing, we are able to take that information and turn it into an action –- a way to do something with the data: to make a lifestyle change, to increase screenings, to get a transfusion because the body isn’t producing something, to take a necessary medication. And that is lifesaving, whether saving the person’s health or actual life.
For me, the idea of genetic testing has always been this really extraordinary gift. It allows me to delve deeper inside myself to discover … well, me. It’s crazy to think of everything we don’t know about ourselves.
At every second, trillions of cells are working together within my body to ensure I exist, I function and I survive. I don’t have to consciously think about it. They just do. My brain cells, nerve cells, tissues, immune system. Each is fighting for my life every second of every day, all while I sit here eating a sandwich or working at my desk. That. Is. Astonishing.
I am completed amazed by the human machine. My body does so much for me, but I also know there are going to be areas where the machine is not functioning as it should. This can be due to age, time, or, sometimes, it is something that occurred during design.
That is where genetic testing can be impactful. It can tell me where I inherited a genetic change that could affect my health. Because of this, I have always told myself that if the opportunity to get genetic testing presented itself, I would have to take it. So, the day I got an invite in my My Sanford Chart account to complete a genetic test called the Sanford Chip for only $49, I couldn’t pass on the chance. I had to say, “Yes.”
A look at the test
The Sanford Chip is a genetic screening developed by Sanford Health that looks at two health-related areas:
- The first is inherited disease risk, so the test looks for specific genetic changes passed down through my family increasing my risk of developing a condition or disease. Positive results here are rarer, but they can occur. Thanks, family! (Only kidding, I know they can’t help it.)
- The second is a fancy word called pharmacogenetics, which is basically how I respond to medications due to my genetics. This could mean slower or faster metabolizing, the medication is ineffective on me or using this medication could create an unwanted side effect.
These two pieces of information are so important in regard to my health care. With the results, my doctors and I can develop a plan individualized for my needs, based on my genetics. Thus, when I am prescribed a medication that doesn’t work for my genetics, my doctor can immediately prescribe an alternative dose or medication. No side effects. No ineffective drugs. Happy me.
A straightforward process
Completing the Sanford Chip has been a wonderful experience. Short and simple:
- Log in to My Sanford Chart
- Clicked a link
- Completed the consent portion
- Pay $49
- Answered a questionnaire
After this preliminary information was collected, I just had to wait for an email telling me to go get a blood draw at any Sanford Health lab. I got a response in less than 24 hours.
My entire visit for my lab draw was under 15 minutes. I told the front desk I was getting a lab draw for the Sanford Chip test, sat down in the waiting area for maybe five minutes, and the blood draw took only a few.
The illustrious blood draw — shudder
I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of blood draws. I know sometimes it’s a necessity, and I am not really squeamish about the poke so much as the principle. If there was supposed to be a hole there, there would be…
Also, I know many people look away, but I am not one of them! I mean, a complete stranger is puncturing a hole in my arm, why would I look away? As a control freak, I need to know it’s coming. In my head I am telling myself the whole time, ‘I am letting this stranger to do this to me. I am willingly sitting here allowing this to happen. I am making this choice.’
Despite my irrational dislike of blood draws, the Sanford Health lab technicians do a really great job of ensuring you are ready and distracting you with conversation. Before I knew it, the draw was over, and I was out the door.
A waiting game
Now, I am (im)patiently waiting for my results. I know these things take time. I believe 12 weeks is the turnaround, which is quite quick when I actually think about everything being tested. But still. I am over here metaphorically twiddling my thumbs, tapping my feet and sighing every once in a while.
I am going to be honest, two days after I completed the lab draw, I remember getting excited when I saw a notification in my email telling me I had a message in My Sanford Chart. My results are finally here! … Nope, it was a doctor’s appointment reminder, and I grumbled a little bit. Too soon, Ashley, too soon. However, I still keep doing it. Every time.
So, if it happens to you, you are not alone!
Digitally saved. My favorite thing about the Sanford Chip is that the information is stored digitally. If Sanford Health decides to add additional tests, I do not have to redo my blood draw. Woot. I simply re-consent to the new information and, voila, it is available to me! Sanford Health reanalyzes my data, and I am in the know.
Security. With the Sanford Chip being delivered through a health care system, I know the same protections on all my other medical records are in place. The information will never be sold and is stored in a secure, encrypted server.
Medically supported. The biggest differentiator is the support you receive immediately after testing and across your lifetime. Unlike other DNA take-home tests, the results are clinically confirmed to eliminate false positives. Plus, support is available whether a positive result is present or not. Should a disease predisposition be found, I can meet with a genetic counselor to go over the results, but if nothing is found, I can still talk to a genetic counselor or my doctor about the results. For any medication variant discovered, a pharmacist reviews the results to advise on medication and dose alternatives.
All the things
Yes, I am an opportunity seeker and the main reason I got this test is because I could. But clearly there are other reasons.
As many of you can likely relate, I grew up in a proud family. Our motto on my father’s side: Where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average. I doubt we coined it, but we have it on welcome mats, so it’s ours now. If you are in my family, the impression is that your genetics are perfect, and any change is a fluke.
We will see!
My family does not have a ton of health concerns. We have a little bit of cancer, but was this partially because of genetics or due to environmental exposures? This test won’t give me every answer, but it will give me a little more insight than I currently have. Maybe the information can help my family if they want to know my results. If they don’t, cool. That’s their choice.
For some, I know with genetic testing comes the fear of knowledge. What if you find out something about yourself that you didn’t want to know? I get it. I understand why someone may be afraid of what they will find out enough to not get tested. For me, however, the fact that each item tested allows me to take charge of my health and my future provides me piece of mind. I cannot guarantee I will never get a condition, but I can darn well try to stop it through screening and lifestyle. And that makes me more fearless.
(The Sanford Chip is a laboratory developed test that is not required to be reviewed by the FDA. Your Sanford Health doctor orders the test and receives the results.)
More stories about the Sanford Chip
- Genetic testing: My journey to some peace of mind (with video)
- Sanford Chip FAQs: Q&A and videos
- What does the Sanford Chip test for?
- Genetic medicine raises questions: Some perspective