4 Things to Consider Before Cancer Genetic Testing

March 1, 2018

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Genetic testing is one such way to determine whether you have a higher risk for developing certain cancers--but does that mean it’s for you? Here are 4 things you should consider before cancer genetic testing.

1. Why have a genetic test for cancer risks?

Genetic testing makes it possible for people to learn more about their genetic profile. Some of the main reasons people look at genetic testing for cancer often include:

  • Family history of cancer
  • To help diagnose a condition
  • Determining a particular risk for a disease that could possibly be prevented
  • Finding if you have genes that could put your children at an increased cancer risk
  • Desire to improve lifestyle

Keep in mind that genetic testing is a voluntary choice. If the factors listed above give you concern, you may want to speak with a genetic professional about genetic testing for cancer.

2. What are the pros and cons?

Cancer genetic testing has come a long way--but it’s still important to be informed regarding the rewards and the risks.

Advantages of cancer genetic testing may include:

  • Predict your risk of a particular cancer
  • Ability to know if you have mutated genes that can be passed onto your children
  • Determine how to adjust your lifestyle in order to help prevent getting cancer

Some disadvantages of cancer genetic testing can include:

  • Unclear results, called a variant of unknown significance, which means a gene may have a mutation not linked with cancer risk
  • Emotional consequences (stress, anxiety, guilt, depression, etc.)
  • Privacy and/or discrimination concerns (employers, insurance company, etc. using results against patients)
  • High cost if not covered by insurance

3. How might the results affect my future or my family’s future?

Genetic testing can make many people feel unsettled about how their results will affect them and their families. Many emotions, including anxiousness, guilt, and even anger, can make it hard cope with the outcome.

On the positive side, being in the know can help your family members decide if they want to be tested, too. This may give them some peace of mind if it turns out that the gene mutation does not run in your family.

4. What will I do once I have the results?

After the test is done, your genetic professional will share the results with you. Genetic testing results aren’t always straightforward, but genetic professionals are trained to interpret and explain them and what they mean for you and/or your family.

If a mutation is found, your genetic professional will talk to you about who in your family might also be affected. He or she will also talk with you about regular preventative cancer screenings, medications, or lifestyle changes that can help you keep your risk of cancer low.

Even if your results are negative, it’s important to understand that it’s not a guarantee you’re not at increased risk. For instance, many genes can have more than one kind of mutation, which means there might still be a chance that you have a different mutation that you were not tested for.

So, do you think cancer genetic testing is for you? Remember, knowledge is power--stay informed, talk with your doctor, and think it through before making a decision. If you are in the Maryland or Washington D.C. areas, the oncologists at Maryland Oncology can help you determine if genetic testing is the right choice for you or your family members. To learn more, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a more in-depth discussion.


For more information on 'The Importance of Genetic Testing in Cancer Research' click here.


Topics: Genetic Testing