Should You Get Genetic Testing for Cancer? Answer These 10 Questions

Photo: Our grateful thanks to photographer Kike Vega on Unsplash!

by Marcel Hernandez, ND

Q: How can it help to  know your odds of getting cancer?

A: In simple terms – with knowledge comes a greatly increased possibility of prevention.

Even if you have a genetic predisposition for cancer, with timely genetic screening it may never manifest.  That’s because it’s far easier to take steps to improve our odds by dealing appropriately with a known risk, than it is to deal with full-blown cancer.

It’s why we offer our patients genetic testing for cancer risk using the services of Ambry Genetics, a cutting-edge company that we’ve come to trust.

Much of the information that we’ll share below is from Ambry Genetics’ excellent literature. Here’s the gist:

Marcel Hernandez, ND

While many people have a family history of cancer, only 5% to 10% of cancers are hereditary.

“Hereditary cancer” is a pattern of identical or related cancer types in a family that can be traced to inherited genetic changes (mutations) that may be passed from parent to child.

“Familial cancer” is a pattern of identical or related cancers within a family that may be traced to genetic and/or other shared factors such as environment and lifestyle.

“Sporadic cancer” is a cancer that may occur in one or two family members, but that isn’t due to an inherited gene mutation. Approximately 80% of all cancers are sporadic.

Should you get genetic testing for cancer?

If your response to any of these 10 questions is “Yes” – then you probably should:

  1. You have several first-degree relatives (mother, father, sisters, brothers, children) with cancer.
  2. Many relatives on one side of your family have had the same type of cancer.
  3. A cluster of cancers in your family has been linked to a single gene mutation such as certain types of breast, ovarian, colorectal, or pancreatic cancers.
  4. A family member has more than one type of cancer.
  5. Family members have had cancer at a younger age than is normal for that cancer type.
  6. Close relatives have cancers that are linked to hereditary cancer syndromes.
  7. A family member has a rare cancer, such as breast cancer in a man, or retinoblastoma (a type of eye cancer).
  8. You are of an ethnicity that has a high rate of a particular type of cancer. For example, Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry is linked to ovarian and breast cancers.
  9. A physical finding in your body is linked to an inherited cancer – for example, having many colon polyps.
  10. One or more family members have had genetic testing that found a mutation.

How can we use the results of your genetic testing to help you?

The test results can help us refine an ongoing cancer screening plan for you, depending on the type of your initial screening and its age and frequency. Examples of cancer screening types include thermography, mammogram, breast MRI, colonoscopy, prostate exam, dermatology (skin) exam, or other screenings that may be indicated for your specific cancer risk.

How can you get started? We’ll start with a quick and easy genetic screening questionnaire that will ask about your family history. Then we’ll take a simple blood draw at our office.

Want to schedule a test? Give us a call at 650-961-1660, or use the convenient Contact Form. Thank you!

Want more information before you schedule a test?  Visit the Ambry Genetics Patient Care Website.