Genetic Testing for Cancer Risk
Genetic testing can be used to help clarify a person’s risk for developing certain diseases. It can reveal if a person has a general risk or a high risk. When possible, it’s best to test a family member who is known to have cancer to determine the factors responsible for the disease.
The test typically involves drawing blood, or obtaining a saliva sample. In some cases, a tissue sample (e.g., cells from a tumor) may be obtained for testing as well.
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. Testing provides a probability of developing disease; it does not diagnose a disease in a person.
It is estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast cancers are inherited. Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with two genes called BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2).
The Cancer Genetics Screening Program offers an extensive review of personal and family health history, assessment of cancer risks and the likelihood of a BRCA mutation in the family, coordination and interpretation of genetic testing, personalized screening and management recommendations.
Blood can be stored for testing at a future time, in the hope that a new test may become available in the future. A person with terminal cancer may wish to store blood for future testing to benefit his or her children.
A genetic counselor will discuss the test results with you and explain what they mean for your health. When appropriate, the counselor will refer you to physicians at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin for further consultation.