Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer

2018-05-18

What is Hereditary Cancer?

There are more than 100 different types of cancer, majority of them occurring at older ages, in people with little or no family history of the disease and no genetic risk. These are named “Sporadic” cancers, which happen by chance.

“Hereditary” cancer on the other hand occurs in people who carry these mutations with them since birth. These people have inherited gene faults which puts them at higher risk for cancer than most others.

What is your risk for Hereditary Cancer?

A person with no family history of cancer is most likely at average risk but for a person with family history of cancer, genetic testing may help to determine the risk of developing cancer. If a person has had cancer, genetic testing may help to determine if there will be an increased risk for additional cancers.

Is Hereditary Cancer testing appropriate for you?

It may be appropriate if you have a personal or family history of any of the following:

  • More than one cancer in the same person
  • Multiple close family members (younger than 50 years old and of the same side of the family) diagnosed with cancer
  • 3 or more close family members (of the same side of the family) with different cancer types
  • Rare cancers at any age

How does genetic testing for Hereditary Cancer work?

The genetic test is done using a blood sample. Your sample, kept in a special kit, will be sent to the genetic testing laboratory, where genes are analysed for mutations, particularly those that may cause an increased risk of cancer.

With the test results obtained, usually after 8 to 10 weeks, your doctor will discuss the prevention options and recommendations accordingly, and suggest suitable screenings and treatments.

Genetic Test Results

There are basically 3 possible results, namely:

  • Positive
    Mutation was found, hence increasing the risk of cancer for the specific gene that has mutation. This indicates that the person is a carrier of cancer, or identifies an increased risk of cancer in the future, or suggest a need for further testing.
  • Negative
    No changes or mutations found, hence the person is not affected, is not a carrier, or does not have an increased risk of developing cancer.
  • Inconclusive
    A genetic change was found, however it is unclear if it is caused by an increased risk for cancer or not. It cannot confirm, rule out nor indicate whether the person has an increased risk of developing cancer.
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Benefits of Hereditary Cancer Testing

The test gives you a better understanding of your risk for being diagnosed
with cancer. If a positive result is obtained, early treatment and decisions can be planned.
Genetic testing for family members offers the best potential for life-saving surveillance and prevention, and in some cases may be the clearest way to confirm a diagnosis.

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