Genetic Testing, Part 1: Reading Genes for Disease

Tests Reveal Answers that Can Offer Relief, or Despair

Listen: Expanded audio: What the tests revealed

Lauren Dubin at her home in Olney, Md.

Lauren Dubin at her home in Olney, Md. Several women in her family had breast cancer, she wanted to know if it was bad luck, or a genetic predisposition. Tracy Wahl, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Wahl, NPR News

Each year, doctors are armed with more genetic tests that can tell which people are vulnerable to what diseases. There are already genetic tests that can spell out an individual's risk of breast cancer, Huntington's disease or cystic fibrosis. But making the decision to learn one's genetic heritage is complex.

In a series of interviews, NPR's Joe Palca talks with people who have faced a decision to find out about their genes.

In part 1 of the series, Palca talks with Lauren Dubin of Olney, Md. Her mother, sister and several cousins had all been diagnosed with breast cancer. The question that plagued her: Was the disease a random occurrence in her family, or was it caused by a specific, inherited genetic mutation? So she contacted a genetic counselor, and made an appointment to take the genetic test that would provide the answer.