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Primary Care Cancer Genetics

Genetic testing is one of the most robust ways you can lower your risk of developing cancer. Knowing you and your family’s risk of cancer can help you make a healthcare plan to stay healthy and reduce your risk of developing cancer.

Hereditary Cancer

It is estimated that one out of every three people will develop cancer in their lifetime. Although most cancers are sporadic, it is estimated that about 5 – 10% of all cancers develop because of an inherited gene mutation. Cancers that are inherited through a genetic mutation are called hereditary cancers. These mutations can be inherited from either your biological mother or father.

Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment

You and your primary healthcare provider will gather your health and family history information. Information about your family cancer history may show that you are at increased risk of a hereditary cancer syndrome. This can increase you and your family’s risk of developing certain cancers. If you are at increased risk of having a hereditary cancer syndrome, your provider may recommend that you speak to a healthcare professional about the risks versus benefits of genetic testing.

Genetic counseling and testing services are available at Mile Square Health Center and are provided by the Cancer Survivorship team.

What is a Gene?

A gene is the basic unit of heredity. Genes are made up of pieces of DNA.

What is a mutation?

A mutation is a small change in a person’s DNA. Some mutations can lead to cancer.

What is known about gene mutations is continually changing, so it is important to understand what can and cannot be learned from genetic testing.

How is genetic testing done?

There are many ways that genetic testing can be performed. Currently, the most common testing methods are either through blood draws or via saliva collection.

Will my insurance cover genetic testing?

Before a genetic test is ordered, we will work with the testing company and your insurance to determine if it is covered. In most cases, testing is covered by your medical insurance.

If there is an out-of-pocket expense for your test, you will be notified of the costs ahead of time so you can decide whether you want to go through with the testing.

What are the Benefits of Genetic Testing?

  • Helps you to make informed decisions about your healthcare to reduce your risk of developing cancer
  • Provides important information for you and your family members about their risk of developing cancer
  • Results from a genetic test may help save your life
  • Gives opportunities for early detection for possible types of cancer that you could be at risk for
  • Develop a cancer risk reduction plan with your healthcare provider if you are at an increased risk
  • Provides peace of mind about your risk of getting cancer

What do my genetic test results mean?

Three types of possible test results are possible with genetic testing. The test can be Negative, Positive, or identify a Variant of Uncertain Significance. Below, these terms are explained in more detail.

Negative Results:

  • If you test negative then this means you do NOT have a gene mutation known to increase your cancer risk. However, since new mutations are being identified all the time, having a negative mutation today does not mean you will test negative for a new mutation in the future. It is important to check in with your doctor update them on changes to your health and family history.
  • Even if you test negative, you may still be at higher risk for certain cancers than other people due to your risk factors and your family history of cancer.
  • If you were tested because of family history and you do not have cancer, a negative test result may be “uninformative.” There may still be a genetic mutation in your family that you did not inherit.

Positive Results:

  • If your test is positive, then that means you DO have a gene mutation that increases your risk for certain cancers.
  • Knowing this gives you options to manage this risk that include more frequent screening, medications, surgeries, and lifestyle changes.
  • It is also essential that you inform your family members of your test results as it will give them a chance to speak to their doctors about the importance of undergoing genetic testing themselves.

Variant of Uncertain Significance (VUS) Results:

  • This result means that there is a change in your gene, but we do not know if this change increases your risk for cancer risk at this time. In most cases, the variants (or changes) are normal variations in a population like hair color or eye color. As we learn more about these changes, these variants can be reclassified to positive or negative results.
  • Again, in most cases, variants are reclassified as negative results (meaning they do not increase a person’s risk for cancer).

Other Important Things to Consider 

Having genetic testing is a big decision and should be thought about carefully. Finding out if you have a higher chance of developing cancer can affect your whole family. Here are some things you should consider if you are unsure about getting genetic testing:

  • Mutations may be passed on in a family, and if you are found to have a gene mutation, your parents, children, siblings, and other blood relatives have a chance of having the same gene mutation.
  • Testing is the only way to find out if someone has a gene mutation.
  • It is best to test a living person with cancer, as they are the most likely person to have a gene mutation.
  • It is important to share test results with family members, but keep in mind they may have different viewpoints and reactions to genetic testing.
  • A majority of insurance providers fully cover genetic testing costs. If not, out-of-pocket cost for genetic testing is usually less than $100.
  • There are federal laws and laws in most states prohibit discrimination regarding employment eligibility and health insurance based on genetic information. These laws do not protect life, disability, or long-term care insurance.

Additional Resources and Information

If you would like more patient education and information about Genetic Testing, see the link below:

Requesting an Appointment

If you are interested in getting more information, ask your Mile Square Primary Care Provider about Genetic Testing at your next appointment. If you do not have a Mile Square PCP, you can make an appointment with one by calling 312.996.2000.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, you may reach us by contacting Dr. Manst at 312.355.8091 or by e-mailing manst@uic.edu.