Frequently Asked Questions About Genetic Testing For Cancer | lifestyle

Your genes play a role in almost every aspect of your health. A gene is like a manual for your body, telling your body how to function, develop and stay healthy. Humans have around 20,000 genes in their bodies.

Many health conditions have a genetic link. Genetic testing can help you and your healthcare team understand if you’re at increased risk of developing certain conditions that run in your family. If you are at risk, you may be able to take preventive measures to reduce your risk or have genetic testing to assess your risk.

Here are nine frequently asked questions about genetic testing:

Do all cancers have a genetic component?

Most cancers are considered sporadic, meaning the cancer occurs randomly or is linked to environmental factors such as smoking and lung cancer. About 25% of cancers are considered familial. This is the case when several family members are affected by cancer. These family members share some common genetic factors combined with common environmental factors that lead to the development of these cancers.

About 10% of cancers are considered hereditary or have a single specific genetic component that can be tested and increase a person’s risk of cancer. Genetic counseling and genetic testing can help determine which category a person’s individual or familial cancer falls into. It can also help assess your risk of developing cancer.

What types of genes are examined in genetic testing?

Based on your genes, you may be at increased risk of some health problems, including some types of cancer. A genetic test looks for certain harmful changes in genes called mutations or pathogenic variants that can cause you to develop a genetic condition. Genetic changes are like misspellings in your body’s manual.

Most genetic tests look for changes in a group of genes called a panel. However, testing can look for changes in a single gene if there is a known genetic mutation in your family. The most common genes associated with cancer risk are BRCA1 and BRAC2. These genes are associated with breast and ovarian cancer. It is known that changes in other genes can also increase the risk of these types of cancer.

There are also gene panels that assess the risk of other cancers such as colon, pancreas, prostate, liver, uterine and endometrial cancer.

Am I guaranteed to get cancer if I have a known gene?

no Inheriting a harmful gene change means you have an increased risk of cancer, but it does not guarantee that you will develop cancer in your lifetime.

If tests show you have an increased risk of cancer, you may need to be screened earlier or more often. For example, if you have a change in the BRCA gene that increases your risk of breast cancer, your healthcare team will recommend that you have mammography or MRI breast screening, starting at a younger age or more frequently. The genetic counselor will explain your associated cancer risks and screening recommendations based on your genetic test results.

What criteria do I have to meet in order to have a genetic test carried out?

Your healthcare team may recommend genetic testing based on guidelines set by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). These guidelines use factors such as your personal cancer history, family history of cancer, ancestry, or the presence of abnormal cells to determine if you qualify for genetic testing.

If you don’t meet NCCN guidelines, you can still take tests. Your health insurance may not cover all or some of the cost of the test, so there may be additional expenses for the test.

Can genetic testing help with cancer treatment?

If you’re battling cancer, genetic testing can help your care team make recommendations for treatments and surgical procedures. For example, some cancers associated with genetic mutations respond better to certain types of chemotherapy treatments. Similarly, genetic testing can help you differentiate between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy when making surgical decisions about breast cancer. It may also affect cancer risk management over time.

The results can also help other family members. Potentially, your children, siblings, nieces and nephews could have inherited the same gene mutation. Knowing this information can help them make early screening schedules and make healthy choices about their lives.

How can I prepare for a genetic test consultation?

Gathering a detailed family history is the most important thing to prepare for a genetic counseling appointment. Try to gather information about relatives, including types of cancer diagnosed, age at diagnosis, current age, or age at death. Also, find out if any of your relatives have had genetic testing.

In the absence of prior genetic testing, the best test person is often the family member with cancer. This person most likely has a genetic alteration, if there is one. If an affected family member is unavailable for testing due to death or lack of interest, an unaffected individual can still be tested.

Another thing to think about before your consultation is the purpose of your test. Younger patients usually want to know their personal risk so they can do additional screening. Elderly patients who have survived cancer may wish to gather information and share it with down-stream family members so that they are aware of the harmful genetic changes they may have inherited.

Can I only get cancer if I have the BRCA gene or one of these other genes?

A common misconception is that you may or may not have one of these genes. Everyone has the BRCA genes and these other genes that are linked to cancer risk. The role these genes play in the body is to prevent cancer from occurring.

When there is a harmful change in one of these genes that causes it not to work as it should. This leads to an increased risk of developing cancer.

People without these harmful changes can still get cancer, but the risk isn’t as high as someone with an inherited condition.

Am I more willing to inherit from a same-sex parent? Or the parent I am most like?

no Everyone has two copies of each gene – one copy inherited from each parent. If a parent has a harmful genetic change in one copy of a gene, it is random which copy they pass on to their children.

Every child has a 50:50 chance of inheriting the typical copy or the modified copy, regardless of your or your parents’ biological sex, or whether you are more like one side of the family.

There is breast cancer on my dad’s side of the family, I’m not at risk because my dad can’t pass it on, right?

People often think that an inherited risk for some cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer, cannot be passed on from men. That is not true.

All people, regardless of biological sex, can carry an inherited risk factor for any type of cancer and pass it on to any of their children.

While you can’t change your genes, you can control some aspects of your environment, such as: B. Diet and physical activity as well as alcohol and tobacco consumption. That’s why living a healthy life is still so important, regardless of your personal and family genetic history.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.