Why Consider Genetic Testing

Cancer is more common in some families than others. Sometimes cancer is caused by a change in a gene, called a mutation. Cancer caused by a mutation passed down from a parent is called hereditary cancer.
A blood test is available to help you find out if you have a mutation. It can help you and your healthcare provider learn more about your cancer risk. If the test finds a mutation, you may have options to lower your risk for cancer.
Getting tested can also give important information to your family. It can help your family members understand their risk for cancer.

Which test is right for me?

Talk to your healthcare provider to decide which test may be best for you. The right test depends on many factors, such as personal and family history of cancer. Tell your healthcare provider if anyone in your family has had genetic testing.

What will the results tell me?

Your healthcare provider or genetic counselor will review your test results with you. There are three possible results:

negative

Negative

The test did not detect a mutation. If a mutation was already found in a relative and your test is negative, then your cancer risk is not higher than the average person. If, however, the cause for the cancer in the family is not known and your test results are negative, then your risk for cancer may still be increased. In some cases, testing for other genes may then be recommended. Testing your family members may also be suggested.

positive

Positive

The test did detect a mutation. This means that you have a higher risk for some types of cancer. You and your healthcare provider can use this information to discuss options to lower your risk.

vus

Variant of unknown clinical significance

It is not uncommon to find changes in genes that are unknown to scientists. We call these “variants of unknown clinical significance.” Over time, we may learn more. Check with your healthcare provider each year for updates about variants.

Would a negative result mean I’m not at a higher risk for cancer?

It depends. If there is a known mutation in your family and your test results are negative, then you are not at a higher risk for cancer. However, if the cause for the cancer in your family is not known and your test results are negative, then your risk for cancer may still be increased. There could be a mutation in a different gene that caused the cancer in your family. Scientists are always learning more about the causes of hereditary cancer, and new genes are discovered each year. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know about any changes in your personal or family history. You may wish to have additional genetic testing in the future.

Would a positive result mean I will develop cancer?

Not necessarily. A positive result means you have a mutation that puts you at higher risk for some types of cancer. The good news is that there are often options to help you lower your risk or prevent cancer altogether. You and your healthcare provider will create a plan that you’re comfortable with to lower your risk.


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