Thursday, October 16, 2014
Genetic Testing for Cancer
What is genetic testing?
Genetic testing, also known as gene testing, is a simple blood test that looks for mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, which help prevent cancer.
What is a BRCA mutation? Why is it important?
The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are known as tumor suppressors. These particular genes help prevent cancer by producing specific proteins. When there is a mutation with one, or both, of these genes, the likelihood of an individual developing cancer increases, according to cancer researchers.
Who should consider genetic testing?
Based on a checklist of questions about your family’s history of cancer, your doctor can help you determine if genetic counseling, and possibly genetic testing, is appropriate.
Risk factors include:
• A relative diagnosed with cancer at or before the age of 50
• A relative with two primary cancers, such as your mother being diagnosed with cancer in each breast
• A relative with two different, but genetically related, cancers, i.e. your aunt being diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancers
• Two or more cases of the same cancer in close relatives
• A number of related cancers on the same side of the family
• A relative with a rare form of cancer, such as male breast cancer
• A known cancer gene mutation on either side of the family
Does testing apply to all types of cancer?
Yes, although mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are typically linked to breast and ovarian cancer, those who inherit these genes are at greater risk of developing other types of cancers, too.
How much does the test cost? Is it covered by insurance?
Genetic testing can cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of the test; other companies do not. Be sure to check with your insurance company regarding coverage prior to being tested.
How is gene testing helping with a cure for cancer?
From proactive measures, such as more frequent screenings, to more extreme measures, such as a prophylactic double mastectomy, genetic testing is helping individuals find out about their possibility of developing cancer earlier. Being aware of genetic links regarding cancer allows individuals to research options and make informed choices.
What else should you know?
• Only approximately 20 percent of individuals with gene mutations develop breast cancer.
• Lifestyle choices continue to play a crucial role in developing the disease.
• According to Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, most people have one-two family members with cancer, but only 5-10 percent of cancers are caused by an inherited gene defect.
Where can you learn more?
• Your doctor. Be sure to mention any family history or cancer and your concerns at your next visit.
• The National Society of Genetic Counselors www.nsgc.org is an organization with trained professionals who specifically work with those at risk of developing cancer due to high genetic factors. These professionals assist individuals with the decision to have genetic testing, consider options once they receive results and make appropriate choices about what to do next based on their personal needs.
• Visit the American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org, for information and updates regarding cancer diagnosis, testing and treatment options.
Be Wize & Be Healthy