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How Does the Testing Process Work?

The genetic testing process is simple, but consider everything before you proceed

In most cases, having a genetic test is a simple process.  It usually involves:

  • A buccal swab, where cells are collected from the inside of your cheek
  • Providing a small amount of blood through a needle
  • Spitting into a tube
  • Rarely, a small sample (biopsy) of muscle, skin or bone may be necessary

You usually don’t need to prepare for the test, although the genetic counselor might suggest not eating an hour before a buccal swab.

The physical risks of testing are almost non-existent. But there are emotional and practical risks, including:

  • Feeling a high level of anxiety while awaiting results
  • The possibility of losing life insurance coverage if a result is positive
  • The possibility a test result may impact your job if you work for a company with 14 or fewer employees

Most test results take two to four weeks to receive. In some cases it can take four to six months to receive results. When results are available, you will receive a phone call from your doctor or genetic counselor. If the results are positive – and sometimes if they’re negative – you will be asked to meet with your genetic counselor to discuss what that means.

While your results usually will be shared with your primary care physician, you should be sure to confirm that. It’s best to ask for a copy of results before you leave the genetic counselor’s office, to ensure you have the results to share with your doctors and other members of your healthcare team.

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