You have a good chance of defeating most kinds of cancer if it is caught early. Cancer is caused by changes in genes that regulate cell growth and differentiation, and some of these are passed from one generation to the next. At CPMC, our Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment Program offers genetic testing for cancer to help you and your family understand your risk.
Our genetic counselors will review your family’s cancer-risk profile. If that history suggests a higher than normal degree of risk, we may suggest genetic testing to seek out known gene mutations that leave you and your children vulnerable to certain types of cancer. These mutations cause cancer in many organs: breast, ovarian, prostate, thyroid, kidney, bladder, colon, liver, stomach, skin, eye and pineal gland.
Testing is done on a small amount of body tissue or fluid, such as blood, saliva or the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus. An appointment will be scheduled to discuss the results when they are available. A positive test does not guarantee that you will get the cancer, but it does enable you or your loved one to be screened at regular intervals.
Discuss with a physician or genetic counselor the limitations, consequences and potential results of genetic testing for cancer before getting tested. You should consider testing if:
- Your mother, father, siblings or children develop cancer.
- You had cancer at an early age.
- A family member had cancer at an early age.
- A family member had a positive gene test for a cancer with a genetic cause, such as breast or ovarian cancer.
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.
Initial genetic counseling consultations last about 60 to 90 minutes. Follow-up counseling sessions typically last 30 to 60 minutes, but can vary in length. Genetic testing is not right for everyone, and involves a very personal decision. Seeing a genetic counselor is an educational opportunity and does not mean you are required to undergo genetic testing.