Current scientific research suggests that about 10% of cancers are caused by genetic mutations. Your individual risk for some hereditary cancers can be determined by genetic testing.
You may wish to learn more about your risk for hereditary cancers if you have a strong family history of cancer or if you come from a line of ancestry in a high-risk ethnic group, such as the Ashkenazi Jewish population. For them, Genetic Testing For Cancer can make a lot of sense.
Understanding your genetic risk for cancer not only helps you plan for your future health, but also the health of your children or future children. As mutations in your DNA have been passed down to you, you will pass the same mutations, and your risk for hereditary cancers, to the next generation if you choose to have children.
How Does Genetic Testing for Cancer Work?
Genetic testing is simple and relatively affordable. Your doctor will collect a small blood sample and send it to a laboratory. In less than 2 weeks, you should receive your report. You can discuss your results with a genetic counselor, who can provide more information about your risk and risks for your children, and talk with you about your next steps.
Most health insurance companies cover 90% of costs for genetic testing, and payment plans may be available for some patients.
What Can Genetic Testing for Cancer Tell Me?
If you have a family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, or endometrial cancer, your gynecologist might recommend Genetic Testing For Cancer to assess your risk.
A genetic test can tell you if you carry one or more of the genetic mutations that have been strongly linked to cancer. A positive result does NOT tell you that you have cancer, or that you definitely will develop cancer. However, it does mean that you are at an increased risk.
Genetic Testing for Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Studies have indicated that about 7% of breast cancers and 10-15% of ovarian cancers are caused by mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. If you are a carrier of one or both of these genetic mutations, then your doctor may diagnose you with a condition known as Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Syndrome.
Patients with HBOC syndrome have an 87% chance of developing breast cancer, and a 63% chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70. By undergoing genetic testing, you and your doctor can better understand your risk for breast and ovarian cancer and take early steps to delay or prevent cancer.
Genetic Testing for Lynch Syndrome
Lynch syndrome, also known as Hereditary Non-polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), is a genetic condition that is strongly linked to uterine, endometrial, and colorectal cancers. Lynch syndrome is caused by mutations in the EPCAM, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2 genes.
Lynch syndrome is also associated with a higher risk for developing ovarian, stomach, pancreatic, renal, urinary tract, biliary tract, small bowel, and brain cancers. Additionally, many patients with Lynch syndrome develop benign tumors in the skin’s oil glands, called sebaceous adenomas.
What Happens if I Tested Positive for a Cancerous Genetic Mutation?
If your test results come back positive, it means that you are at an increased risk for developing cancer. Your gynecologist will discuss with you some ways in which you can decrease your risk, delay, or prevent the development of cancer. Your doctor may refer you to an oncologist for specialized treatment.
Some treatment options your oncologist may recommend include:
- Early and frequent screenings for breast, ovarian, uterine, and other cancers associated with your mutation.
- Cancer risk-reducing medication, known as chemoprevention
- Surgical removal of the affected tissue, such as a mastectomy or hysterectomy, before the onset of cancer.