Updated on 24 June 2013
The Cancer Genetics Service, which was started at the National Cancer Center Singapore (NCCS) about 10 years ago, evaluates about 100-to-120 people a year. Dr Lee Soo Chin, a senior consultant oncologist at the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS), noted a similar increase over the last two years at the institute's cancer genetics clinic. The clinic that started in 2001 currently sees 60-to-80 new patients a year for genetic risk evaluation. Doctors here offer genetic testing only if the estimated risk of finding a mutation is at least 10 percent.
The cost of the test is by far the same in countries like China, Japan and South Korea. In these Asian demographics, testing the first family member costs $2,320 (HK$ 18,000) and the entire gene is first mapped out. Like in many other places, testing for other family members here too costs lesser, ranging from $773 (HK$6,000)-to-$1,160(HK$9,000). In addition, underprivileged women can avail the test at subsidized costs at certain clinics.
There are many companies worldwide that provide the option of direct-to-customer gene screening. Either through television, radio or internet advertisements, these companies urge people to order a at-home genetic testing kit. An individual in this case has to merely collect a tissue and swab it inside their cheek to get their DNA sample that is then to be mailed back. The rests are expected anywhere between three weeks and three months. Since this test involves neither a doctor nor a genetic counselor, the credibility of these tests is debatable. However, since the cost of these tests is quite low, a majority of women test themselves in-house through this service.
One main problem that genealogist argue about when it comes to gene testing is that the customers might receive clinically significant test results without any appropriate counseling from a healthcare professional and are expected to interpret complex results on their own. This might lead to a lot of psychological stress and trauma in fear of impending doom.
"With the present state of knowledge, these tests seem very less credible. This is because it might be easy to understand the susceptibility of a person towards a disease caused by a single gene, but when it comes to specific genetic alterations, it is a long and winding process to analyze data and come up with conclusive and credible results," added Professor Majumder.
Nevertheless, with more and more companies coming up with clinical tests, the costs of such tests are only dubbed to decrease.