Medical tests specifically designed to look at inherited gene mutations are known as Predictive genetic testing. Getting such a test is not necessary for all but it is usually recommended when certain types of cancer run in a family. About 5% to 10% of cancers are caused by gene mutations that are inherited or passed down through the family.
Why must you consider getting such a test done?
1. If you have blood relatives who have or have had cancer, these could be your mother, father, sisters, brothers or you children.
2. Relatives of yours have had the same type of cancer.
3. If a family member has more than one type of cancer.
4. If your family members have had genetic testing done and have found a mutation.
5. If you’re a female and there is history of breast cancer that runs in your family.
Genetic testing looks for variations in your genes that could increase the risk of cancer. No such test can say for sure that you will develop cancer but it can tell if the risk of you developing it down the road is high or no.
How to get started?
1. Visit a healthcare professional who will then look at the medical history your family and you to determine if you need genetic testing or not. They then refer you to a genetic counsellor who give you information about the test, how it can be inherited, how genetic testing works, limitations of the test, how to move forward if the results indicate cancer, how you can cope with knowing that one day you might get cancer, how it would affect your life and relationships.
2. Sample is then collected, it may be blood, saliva, cheek cells or all of the above. The sample is then analyzed in specialized labs and may take several weeks to be analyzed.
3. The results of your testing is then sent to your genetic counsellor who then discusses it with you and develops a plan going forward. The results you get can vary-
It may come as positive, a gene variation has been detected that can increase the risk of cancer. Going forward you will be required to get screened for cancer often, you will be required to implement a lifestyle change, taking medication to lower your risk of cancer. In case of breast cancer, some at risk cancer tissues are removed.
If it is negative, then the counsellor suggests that this doesn’t remove the possibility of developing cancer down the line. Healthy lifestyle changes are recommended.
Often times a genetic variant is detected but its significance in getting cancer is unknown.
At the end of the day it comes down to you, if you’ve had family history of cancer and have the financial stability to afford a genetic test as it is a costly procedure and want a peace of mind then consult your doctor and proceed accordingly.
- Genetic testing can help determine if you have certain genetic variations that place you at an increased risk of developing cancer. It’s often done when you have a family or personal history of certain types of cancer.
- There are many benefits to genetic testing. For example, a negative test result may offer some peace of mind. Or, a positive result could help you start taking steps that can prevent cancer from occurring.
- Genetic testing cancer screening does have limitations. A positive test result doesn’t mean with certainty that you’ll develop cancer, Meanwhile, a negative test result doesn’t mean that you’ll never develop cancer over the course of your lifetime.