Managing Your Cancer Risk with Genetic Testing

Source: Central

No one can exactly predict whether you will develop cancer. But there are many factors that may put you at higher risk, including your genetics.

Determining your personal cancer risk may create an opportunity for prevention, early detection, or more effective treatment.

About 5 to 10% of diagnosed breast cancers and 20 to 25 % of diagnosed ovarian cancers are due to inherited genetic susceptibility, according to the American Cancer Society.

While most cancers are random or caused by environmental factors, like age, smoking, or obesity, up to 10 % of cancers are caused by an inherited gene mutation, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Genetic testing can be used in many ways and is increasingly being used to look for gene changes that are linked to cancer risk. Testing is usually performed using a small amount of blood or saliva.

If you have any of the following risk factors, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends considering talking to a genetic counselor about genetic testing:

– Personal history of ovaria, pancreatic, advanced prostate or breast cancer (male or female).
– Several relatives on one side of the family who have had the same type of cancer or a particular cluster of cancers (breast/ovarian, colon/uterine) which could be linked to a specific genetic syndrome.
– You or a family member has been diagnosed with more than one type of cancer.
– You or a family member were diagnosed with cancer at a younger age than normal for that type of cancer. For instance, breast or colon cancer at age 50 or younger.
– A rare cancer (in you or a family member), such as breast cancer in a man or retinoblastoma.
– A particular race or ethnicity, such as Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, which is linked to a higher risk of BRCA gene mutations.
– You or a family member has a history of many colon polyps.
– A known genetic mutation in one or more family members who have already had genetic testing.

If you have already been diagnosed with cancer, genetic testing can help establish if you have an increased risk of developing a second cancer.

For most patients, the out-of-pocket cost for genetic testing is minimal. In many cases, health insurance plans will cover part or all of the costs of genetic testing if they meet certain criteria.

In assessing your risk, genetic counselors analyze your medical, personal, and family history and if appropriate, offer genetic testing. Based on your risk level, counselors will partner with you and your healthcare providers to develop a lifetime plan that includes tailored medical recommendations, risk reduction strategies, and proactive long-term follow up care.

For more information or to make an appointment with a genetic counselor at the Penn Medicine Princeton Cancer Center by caklling 215-349-9093.

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