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Precision Medicine

What Is Precision Medicine?

Precision medicine — also called personalized medicine — is a way for health care providers to give safe and effective care and treatment based on things that make someone unique. They personalize care using information about a person’s:

  • genes: made of DNA, the blueprint for the body
  • environment: such as where someone lives or if anyone smokes in the home 
  • health history: including a person’s age, health problems, and medicines they take
  • lifestyle: what kinds of foods they eat, how active they are, etc.

Health care options generally are based on what helps most people. Sometimes that care works better for some people than others. Precision medicine tailors care so that a person gets the best care for them.

What Do Genes Have to Do With Precision Medicine?

Our genes help make us who we are. They determine someone’s hair and eye color and how tall they will be. They also determine how fast or slow someone’s body can process medicines (called pharmacogenetics) and whether they have high or low risk for some health problems, like cancer. Precision medicine uses information in a person’s genes with the other details about their health to help them get the best personalized care.   

What Are the Benefits of Precision Medicine?

Precision medicine helps health care providers find the treatments and medicines most likely to help a person. Using individual health information, they can run screening tests to look for early signs of a medical problem when someone has a higher risk for that problem. Early diagnosis can make treating health problems easier and more effective.

Should My Child Have Genetic Testing?

Whether genetic testing will help with your child’s care depends on a few things. Talk to your child’s doctor about whether genetic testing is:

  • useful for making choices about your child’s care
  • offered near you

Genetic counselors and geneticists are experts trained to know which genetic tests to order and what the results mean. Ask your doctor if a genetic counselor or geneticist could help with your child’s care.