What is Genetic Cancer Testing?
Genetic Testing can provide you with information regarding your future cancer risk. Through a close examination of your personal and family history, along with a specialized blood test, a Geneticist can investigate your probability of developing cancer.
How does it work?
Your body is made up of millions of cells, which are constructed of genes. These genes are the source of your DNA, or your hereditary characteristics. Your DNA is the information source that tells your cells how to grow and function. Sometimes genes passed on from generation to generation undergo a change. During this change, cells may behave in a different way that increases your health risk for such things as cancer.
What are the pros and cons of Genetic Testing?
At this point, scientists have only discovered a handful of cancer genes and it is possible that a genetic change exists in your family that cannot be detected by current testing methods. It is also possible that even with a family history of cancer, you may not have inherited that specific gene change. If no genetic change is found, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will live cancer-free. Likewise, if you are found to have a genetic change, it is possible that you may not develop cancer.
How do I know if Genetic Cancer Testing is right for me?
Choosing to (or not to) undergo Genetic Testing is a personal choice. Those who choose to undergo the screening often do so to be armed with knowledge that can help them make better decisions about their health and the health of their family.
- What you learn through genetic testing could enable you to be proactive about preventative lifestyle changes, early detection methods or pre-treatment options.
- Results can give you information about cancer risk for other family members, including your children.
- With a family history of cancer, you may feel anxious or depressed. When armed with knowledge and understanding of your actual risk for cancer, these emotions can often be reduced.
- Breast cancer before age 50
- Bilateral breast cancer or two primary breast cancers
- Two or more breast and/or ovarian cancers in the family
- Male breast cancer
- Jewish ancestry and family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Colorectal cancer before age 50
- Endometrial cancer before age 50
- A history of 20 or more non-cancerous colon polyps
- Two or more related cancers
- Colon/Endometrial (if these cancers occur in addition to ovarian, other gastrointestinal, liver or renal cancers, Lynch Syndrome should be considered)
- A known cancer gene mutation in the family
Testing is usually recommended for patients that also have one or more of the following personal history characteristics:
- Breast cancer before age 40
- Ovarian cancer before age 50
- Jewish ancestry and breast or ovarian cancer
- Colorectal cancer before age 45
- Endometrial cancer before age 45
- Multiple colon polyps (greater than 20)
- Multiple colon polyps (less than 20) and a family history of colorectal cancer
- At risk to inherit known cancer gene mutation in the family
What happens if I learn I am genetically at risk for cancer?
Your geneticist will help you understand and address your particular level of risk for cancer. They will work with you to determine how you might use your test results to make future decisions for you and your family such as preventative lifestyle changes, early detection methods or pretreatment options.
I'm interested in Genetic Testing. What now?
Call Pennington Cancer Center at (225) 763-4300 and we'll arrange a consultation appointment for you with our certified Geneticist. Genetic testing may be covered by some insurances; however, Louisiana law restricts the use of genetics information by insurers and employers and prohibits discrimination based on the results.