94% of children born with CF are born into families with no known family history of the condition. To have a child with CF, both parents must be a carrier of the gene change that causes CF.
If both parents are carriers of the CF gene change, then with each pregnancy there is a 25% risk of that child having CF. Being a CF carrier does not mean you have CF and carriers usually display no symptoms of CF.
CF carrier screening services are available in Australia to help you find out whether you or your partner carry the CF gene change.
What is CF carrier screening?
CF carrier screening is a genetic test that will help to identify if you have changes to the CF gene.
The test involves providing a blood or saliva sample and requires a referral from your GP, obstetrician or gynaecologist. There are around 2,000 gene changes that cause CF and a typical CF screening will identify the most common CF gene changes in Australia. However, there is still a small risk that you may be a carrier of a rare CF gene change.
If you have a family history of CF, it is important to tell your GP, obstetrician or gynaecologist before providing your sample for screening. This will ensure that you are being tested for the most common CF gene changes as well as the specific gene change relevant to your family.
For people with a close relative who has CF (second cousin or closer), the cost of the test is covered by Medicare. Speak to your doctor to check your eligibility for the rebate. If you have no family history of CF, you can pay for the test yourself (expect to pay at least $150).
CF carrier screening is only available to those 18 years and over and is the only way to find out if you are a carrier of the CF gene change. The test can be ordered prior to pregnancy or early in a pregnancy.
For more information on genetic testing visit Victorian Clinical Genetics Services.
Could you be a carrier?
An estimated 1 in 25 Australians carry the gene changes that can cause CF, and most people are unaware if they are a carrier.
Making the decision to know your CF carrier status through genetic testing is a choice only you can make. Knowing whether you are a carrier can help inform you of all of your reproductive options.
The earlier you make a decision about knowing your CF carrier status the more options you will have. You can discuss your CF carrier screening options with your GP, obstetrician or a genetic counsellor.
Is it better to know my CF carrier status?
Everyone’s reason for wanting or not wanting to know their CF carrier status will be different. What is important is that you feel you have made an informed choice that suits your particular situation and needs.
However, the more open people are about the existence of CF in the family and the availability of testing like CF carrier screening, the more informed people can be when they make their own choices about finding out their CF carrier status when they are ready.
CF Community Care supports individuals having an opportunity to make informed life and reproductive choices as a result of CF carrier screening.
Some parents are interested in finding out the carrier status of their children who do not have CF. The Human Genetics Society of Australasia guidelines on genetic counselling recommend that minors should only have carrier testing when the results will inform their health management in the immediate future.
Can newborn screening detect CF carrier status?
Newborn screening (heel prick test) and CF carrier screening are different. Newborn screening will not identify a child’s CF carrier status.