What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing is a way to find out if a person has a change in his or her genes that’s called a “mutation.” If your doctor recommends taking a genetic test for a specific cancer, it’s to find out if you have a cancer-related mutation. If you do, you may be more likely to develop that type of cancer.
For some kinds of cancer, if you already have that cancer, genetic testing can help doctors decide on the right treatment. The tests can also help evaluate the risk of getting other cancers.
Some people get genetic tests if certain cancers run in their family, particularly if their mother or father had one of those cancers. It’s possible that the test will show an inherited gene mutation—but be aware that genetic testing doesn’t always provide a clear answer.
It’s also important to know that genetic testing will not tell you if you have cancer. The test can only see if you might have a gene mutation that can increase cancer risk.
Doctors have identified gene mutations that cause some inherited types of cancer. About 10% of breast cancer cases and about 20% of ovarian cancers seem to be inherited. Overall, about 5% to 10% of all cancers are connected to inherited gene mutations.
Is genetic testing right for me?
It’s important to talk about genetic testing with your doctor. Even if you have a mutation that’s connected with cancer, you may never get cancer. Also, many gene mutations have nothing to do with cancer. So, before agreeing to get a test, be aware that genetic testing has pros and cons.
- The test can show that you don’t have an increased risk of getting cancer.
- On the other hand, the test may show that you do have greater risk of cancer. These results can be helpful in managing your risk, such as by starting healthier behaviors.
- Genetic testing doesn’t always give a clear “yes” or “no” answer about cancer risk. Sometimes the test doesn’t say one way or the other.
- Some people aren’t good candidates for genetic testing.
- Genetic testing can be expensive, especially if it’s not covered by insurance.
What else should I know?
Genetic testing usually isn’t painful. The doctor will either take a blood sample or cheek swab. Sometimes a tissue sample is needed.
It usually takes about 2-3 weeks to get genetic test results. However, talk with your doctor if the situation is urgent because genetic testing can sometimes be done more quickly.
Regional Cancer Care Associates — Cancer care you can trust
The expert healthcare team at Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) has the knowledge and experience to help you make difficult medical decisions. We’re respected by our peers and trusted by our patients. At RCCA, we understand that a cancer diagnosis changes everything. That’s why we’re here for you, delivering top-quality, state-of-the-art treatment close to your home.