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Genetic Testing

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At Cancer Institute of Florida, our leading oncologists and hematologists can perform many genetic tests that help identify a patient’s risk for developing certain cancers.

Genetic testing (also called DNA-based tests) is among the newest and most sophisticated techniques used to test for genetic diseases and disorders which involve direct examination of the DNA molecule itself.

Analyzing DNA to look for a genetic alteration that may indicate an increased risk of developing a specific cancer related disease or disorder is being used as a proactive approach against fighting cancer.

Genetic testing allows the genetic diagnosis of vulnerabilities to inherited diseases. In addition to studying chromosomes to the level of individual genes, genetic testing in a broader sense includes biochemical tests for the possible presence of genetic diseases, or mutant forms of genes associated with increased risk of developing genetic disorders.

Genetic testing identifies changes in chromosomes, genes or proteins. Most of the time, testing is used to find changes that are associated with inherited disorders. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person's chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.

Who should consider genetic testing?

Predictive genetic testing is done only if you choose to do it. If you are concerned about your family's pattern of disease, cancer you've had in the past or other cancer risk factors, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether to have genetic testing.

Doctors will sometimes suggest patients have genetic testing if others in their family have had a certain disease.

If you have any of the following, you might consider genetic testing for yourself:

Several first-degree relatives (mother, father, sister, brother) with cancer, especially the same type of cancer

  • A family history of cancers that are known to be linked to a single gene mutation (for instance, breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer)
  • Family members who developed cancer at a young age
  • Close relatives with rare cancers that are linked to hereditary cancer syndromes
  • A physical finding that is linked to hereditary cancer (such as many colon polyps)
  • A known genetic mutation in the family (from one or more family members who had genetic testing)

It's important to know what tests may be available. For some types of cancer, there are no mutations known at this time to be linked to increased risk. Some other cancer types may have known mutations, but genetic tests are not yet available for them.

What to Expect from Genetic Testing

You will want to think about what the results of testing may tell you before you decide to be tested. It's important to find out how useful testing may be for you before you do it. Before the actual testing, a session with a genetic counselor—someone who is trained to interpret and explain the results of testing—can help you know what to expect. Testing does not always give you clear black-and-white answers. Before having the testing done, you may want to think about how the results might affect you and your family members.

Example of Genetic Tests

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. Mutation of these genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

BRCA1

A gene on chromosome 17 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits certain mutations (changes) in a BRCA1 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate and other types of cancer.

BRCA2

A gene on chromosome 13 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits certain mutations (changes) in a BRCA2 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate and other types of cancer.