Cancer Genetics

Prevention And Treatment FAQs

Common Cancer Genetics Questions

How much cancer is hereditary?

Approximately 5-10% of individuals with cancer have a hereditary cancer syndrome. Hereditary cancer syndromes are typically due to inherited changes within genetic information, called mutations, which lead to a high risk of developing specific types of cancer. These mutations can be passed down within families, from generation to generation. For many hereditary cancer syndromes, genetic testing is available to potentially identify the cause of cancer in the family.

Who can benefit from a cancer risk assessment?

Anyone concerned about a personal and/or family history of cancer can benefit from a genetic counseling and a cancer genetic risk assessment, particularly individuals with a personal and/or family history of:

  • Cancer occurring younger than expected (typically before 50)
  • More than one type of cancer in the same person (separate primary cancers, not an original cancer spreading to other parts of the body)
  • Two or more family members with the same type of cancer
  • A rare or unusual type of cancer

What does the genetic cancer risk assessment consist of?

  • Initial consultation with a licensed genetic counselor
  • Coordination of genetic testing (if indicated) at the end of the initial consultation
  • Second consultation to review test results and provide summary management recommendations for the patient and family members. Click here for more information on Clinical Services.

How long does it take to get genetic test results?

This depends on which genetic test is indicated and ordered. For the most common cancer genetic syndromes, test results are typically available in 2-3 weeks. For cancer gene panes that test multiple genes at once, genetic testing may take 2-4 months.

If I've already had cancer, how does genetic testing help me?

Many patients who go through genetic testing currently have, or have previously had cancer. Genetic testing may provide an explanation for their cancer and may also identify if other body parts are at elevated risk for cancer and thus need to be screened more closely. Genetic test results can also help determine cancer risks for family members.

Does insurance cover genetic counseling and testing?

The majority of patients have insurance coverage for genetic counseling and testing. Our patient account specialists verify coverage prior to the patient consultation and alert the patient if genetic services are not a covered benefit. The third party laboratory that performs and bills for the genetic test will also verify coverage for the specific genetic test ordered.

Can insurance companies use my genetic test result against me?

There are federal and state laws that provide protection against genetic discrimination and there are no documented cases of genetic discrimination following genetic counseling or testing for cancer risk. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 is a federal law that protects people from health insurance eligibility and cost discrimination and also protects people from employment discrimination.