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Genetic Testing, Part 2: Reading Genes for Disease

Katie Richardson with her husband and two children. Richardson has cystic fibrosis, and is pregnant with her third child.
Tracy Wahl, NPR
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Katie Richardson with her husband and two children. Richardson has cystic fibrosis, and is pregnant with her third child.

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 the series' second installment, Palca talks with Katie and Terry Richardson.

Katie Richardson, a 36-year-old attorney, has cystic fibrosis, and is pregnant with her third child. Her two other children don't have the disease, but do carry the gene that causes the disease.

Richardson's husband Terry has chosen not to find out if he is a carrier, and the couple has also decided against having their unborn child tested for cystic fibrosis. Palca talks with the family about their decisions.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Palca
Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.