Genetic testing for Alzheimer's: Do you want to know?

Genetic testing

ST. PETERSBURG —  All it takes is a cheek swab, and about $200 -- and you can find out where in the world your ancestors came from.

But there's more in your DNA than just your heritage. The test can also detect the possibility that you could develop:

  • Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder impacting movement.
  •  Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills.
  • Celiac disease, a disorder resulting in the inability to digest gluten.
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a disorder that raises the risk of lung and liver disease.
  • Early-onset primary dystonia, a movement disorder involving involuntary muscle contractions and other uncontrolled movements.
  • Factor XI deficiency, a blood clotting disorder.
  • Gaucher disease type 1, an organ and tissue disorder.
  • Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency, also known as G6PD, a red blood cell condition.
  • Hereditary hemochromatosis, an iron overload disorder.
  • Hereditary thrombophilia, a blood clot disorder.

VOTE NOW: Would you want to know if you have the chance to develop Alzheimer's?

But would you want to know your chances of developing a disease like Alzheimer’s?

Just because you can learn those things, would you want to know you could potentially have a life-changing disease years before you even have symptoms?

10News reporter Mark Rivera asked a woman who deals with Alzheimer's and dementia every day. She takes care of her mom.

RIVERA: My grandpa has Alzheimer's. And I don't know if I would want to do that. What do you think?

JACKALINE SHIELDS (her mom has Alzheimer's): I think it's the most frightening part I'm sort of afraid of taking it, and you know I was talking to my family and saying well maybe we should try getting tested, but… Just the idea of

RIVERA: of knowing

SHIELDS: Of knowing that you might actually have it.

RIVERA: I think there are two ways to think about it. It's like, OK, if you get it back and there's a high percentage --  what do you do with that info?

SHIELDS: First of al,l you start working on yourself. OK, I know there is a chance that I am going to get all Alzheimer's or some form of dementia. So, once I have the information I can start really – like people say doing their bucket list.

Start planning out all my life, because I don't know how long I'll actually be here. Like, OK, mom's had it going on 11 years now. I might have it as long.

RIVERA: What did your other family members think about, because you know you said do you think we should get tested, what did they say?

SHIELDS: No one wants to know.

RIVERA: Really.

SHIELDS: Yeah. No one wants to know, which I think is a little sad. None of us really want to now, but we do need to know so we can start planning out the rest of our lives.

RIVERA: Say you get tested. Say you find out the chance is high. How do you then go forward with that information and not sit back and be depressed all the time and say, "this is coming."

SHIELDS: It's just like cancer or any other sickness or disease that you find out you have. Either you're going to face this thing and try to fight it, and try to live your life to the fullest, or are you just going to sit back, die with it, and be depressed. And if that ever happens with me, I don't want to sit back and be depressed. I think I have too much to live for right now.

Whatever's left of my life, I choose to go forward with it, not sit back and be depressed by it.

RIVERA: It's a clear choice.

SHIELDS: It's a clear choice. And like I said just like any other sickness that you may come down with or you have, either you are going to sit back and have a pity party, or you're going to go forward and live your life to the fullest.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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