IS CANCER GENETIC?
Hereditary Cancer & Genetics
Cancer is a common disease that happens when cells in a part of the body grow and divide too much, leading to cancer cells that can spread. Our genes contain DNA with instructions for different aspects of our health, including cell growth. Some genes in our body protect us from getting cancer. If one of these genes has a small change called a mutation within it, this can give us a higher risk of developing cancer. So in a sense, all cancer is genetic.
Cancer By The Numbers
5 to 10%
of all cancers are due
to an inherited reason.
of hereditary cancer syndromes have been confirmed. For most of these syndromes, genetic tests for harmful variants are available.
new cancer cases are expected
to be diagnosed in 2020.
Is Cancer Genetic?
Gene mutations can happen because of our lifestyle or environment (like smoking and lung cancer or ultraviolet light exposure and skin cancer), can happen randomly as we age and/or can be inherited. Hereditary cancer happens when an individual inherits a gene mutation from one of their parents, which increases the risk for certain types of cancer.
How Does Genetic Counseling
and Testing for Cancer Work?
Attend an Initial Consultation
A genetic counselor will review your health history and your family’s health history. If genetic testing can help, a genetic counselor can walk you through your best options, tell you about the pros and cons and help you decide if you want to proceed. A genetic counselor can also help you learn if your insurance will cover the cost of your testing.
Depending on the test, genetic testing is usually done with a saliva sample or blood sample. On average, the amount of time it takes to test results is 3 weeks. If you need to give a saliva sample, you will be sent a collection kit that you can return directly to the testing laboratory. If you need to give a blood sample, you will be scheduled to have your blood drawn at a time and place convenient to you. The wait time for results varies, depending on the test.
Review Results with a Genetic Counselor
Genetic test results can be complex. A genetic counselor can explain what your results mean—and don’t mean—so that you understand them and can meaningfully use the insights that you’ve learned.
Your genetic counselor will create a personalized action plan so that you can take advantage of what you learned and share it with your doctor. This could include adjustments to your regular health care. Your doctor is an important partner to help you maximize your proactive genetic test results and help you stay healthy.
Schedule Your Genetic
With Genome Medical, you can simply schedule your genetics consultation online and attend from the comfort of your own home. Arrangements or referrals can be made if a physical examination is needed. Secure video sessions are flexible and available to suit your schedule.
Genetic Testing for Cancer
Get to know the two types of genetic testing for cancer.
Hereditary Cancer Testing
Genetic testing for hereditary cancer looks for gene mutations in what are called germline cells, which are passed from parent to child. Germline DNA mutations in certain genes associated with cancer risk are inherited mutations and cause increased cancer risk to different generations in a family.
GENETIC TESTING MAY ALLOW YOU TO:
- Take proactive measures to help reduce your risk for cancer or allow for early detection
- Help you and your health providers make more informed decisions about your health care
- Inform your family members who may also be at risk for cancer, so they too can take proactive measures for their own health
Tumor testing is a different type of genetic testing for cancer. This is done on a cancer tumor or cancer tumor cells to look for gene mutations in the tumor cell’s DNA—sort of like cancer genetics. Tumor testing is NOT intended to be genetic testing for hereditary cancer. Tumor testing only looks for gene mutations in what are called somatic cells in the tumor. Somatic gene mutations are not passed from parent to child.
GENETIC TESTING MAY ALLOW YOU TO:
- Diagnose a cancer
- Learn if certain treatments might be helpful for that specific type of cancer
- Learn about the chances of the cancer coming back
Types of Cancer That Genetic Testing Can Detect
Learn more about common cancers and their association with genetics.
8.3%Colon CancerMakes up 8.3% of all new cancer cases, and a portion is hereditary colon cancer.
3.2%Pancreatic CancerMakes up 3.2% of all new cancer cases, and portion is hereditary pancreatic cancer.
15.2%BREAST CANCER (FEMALE)Makes up 15.2% of all new cancer cases, and a portion is hereditary breast cancer.
1.3%OVARIAN CANCERMakes up 1.3% of all new cancer cases, and a portion is hereditary ovarian cancer.
9.9%PROSTATE CANCERMakes up 9.9% of all new cancer cases, and a portion is hereditary prostate cancer.
5.5%SKIN CANCER (MELANOMA)Makes up 5.5% of all new cancer cases, and a portion is hereditary melanoma.
1.6%STOMACH CANCERMakes up 1.6% of all new cancer cases, and a portion is hereditary stomach cancer.
3%THYROID CANCERMakes up 3% of all new cancer cases, anda portion is hereditary thyroid cancer.
GENETIC TESTING ALSO HAS LIMITATIONS AND
CANNOT TELL YOU EVERYTHING. FOR EXAMPLE:
- If genetic testing shows you have a DNA pathogenic variant (called a “positive result”), it does not necessarily guarantee you will get cancer—a positive result might signal that you have an increased risk to develop cancer that you may never develop.
- If genetic testing shows you do not have a DNA variant (called a “negative result”), that does not mean you will never develop cancer.
- If genetic testing shows you have a DNA variant of unknown significance (called a “VUS” result), that means it is not yet known if the variant is associated with cancer risk or if this is a normal genetic change in the general population. A VUS result is often a normal finding and will likely become clear over time as more is learned.
Trusted Genetic Specialists
Our clinical team is comprised of more than 50 clinicians, including medical geneticists, genetic counselors, primary care doctors and pharmacists who can provide medical services in all 50 states through our telehealth platform.
Chief Medical Officer
Director, Cardio and Pediatric Genetic Services
Director, Reproductive Genetic Services
Director, Cancer Genetic Services
Director, Genetic Counseling Services, GeneMatters