Genetic Testing for Cancer

A compassionate approach to cancer monitoring, detection and prevention

Genetic Testing for Cancer: A Focus on Prevention

If you have a history of cancer in your family, you may have questions about what that means for your risk. The Cancer Genetics & Prevention Program at Mount Auburn Hospital can provide answers. We help you learn more about your risk for developing cancer and create your personalized plan for monitoring and prevention.

Genetic tests tell us if you have certain gene mutations. Mutations are abnormal changes in your genes that increase your cancer risk. With a better understanding of your risk, you can focus on prevention. This may include developing a plan to lower your risk and formulating a screening plan to help find cancer earlier when it tends to be easiest to treat.

At Mount Auburn Hospital, our cancer genetics specialists guide you through this process with understanding, compassion and privacy. We help take the fear out of genetic testing. And we give you the information you need to take a proactive approach to protecting your health. Our longitudinal High-Risk Clinic also provides ongoing monitoring and assistance.

When to Consider Genetic Testing for Cancer

Genetic testing at Mount Auburn requires a referral from a physician. Talking with your primary care provider (PCP) or gastroenterologist can help you determine if testing is right for you.

We can test for several types of cancer predisposition. However, we commonly get questions related to breast and colorectal cancer.

Breast Cancer Genetic Testing

Some BRCA gene mutations are linked to cancer. If you’ve inherited the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, you may be at a higher risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. These mutations have also been linked to an increased risk of other cancers, including fallopian tube, pancreatic and prostate cancers.

You may benefit from genetic testing if you or a family member:

  • Are of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
  • Have more than two relatives with the same cancer
  • Have experienced:
    • Atypical hyperplasia (precancerous, abnormal cells) and in-situ carcinoma (abnormal cells located only where they first developed) of the breast
    • Bilateral breast cancer (cancer in both breasts)
    • Breast cancer before age 50
    • Male breast cancer
    • More than one type of cancer
    • Ovarian cancer

You may also wish to consider BRCA gene testing if a family member tests positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations.

Colon Cancer Genetic Testing

You may benefit from genetic testing for colon cancer if you or a family member has experienced:

  • Colon cancer before age 50
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Tubular adenoma or adenomatous polyps

You may also wish to consider genetic testing if a family member tests positive for one of the genetic alterations associated with colorectal cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to commonly asked questions about genetic testing for cancer.

What will happen at my appointment?

At your first appointment, you meet with a genetic counselor, nurse practitioner, or doctor. Together, you discuss a wide range of issues related to genetic testing, including:

  • Cancer diagnosis and treatment options
  • Emotional and social issues related to your test results
  • Genetic tests currently available
  • The privacy of your test results
  • Ways to prevent cancer and monitor your health
  • Your risk of developing certain types of cancer

Whether you proceed with testing is strictly up to you. After your discussion, you may choose to get genetic testing at your appointment, at a later date or not at all.

What does testing involve?

If you decide to pursue genetic testing, your provider will collect a blood sample or saliva sample to collect cells from inside your mouth. We send the samples to a lab for testing.

How will I receive my results?

At the time of your testing, you schedule a follow-up appointment with a member of our team. At that appointment, you will discuss your results and design a personalized high risk surveillance program with your cancer genetics and prevention provider.

When I receive my results, what will follow-up care involve?

Whatever the results of your genetic test, you can count on us to be at your side. We guide you in taking the steps necessary to reduce your cancer risk and provide a personalized prevention plan. Recommendations may include:

  • Lifestyle changes, focusing on things such as diet and exercise
  • Medications to prevent breast cancer
  • More frequent or additional types of cancer screenings
  • Preventive surgery

If genetic tests show you have an increased likelihood of developing cancer, our High-Risk Clinic can help. Typically, we see you yearly in the clinic and provide long-term monitoring. We also offer regular advice for staying healthy and preventing cancer.

Will my insurance cover genetic testing?

Many insurance companies cover genetic testing if you meet certain medical criteria. Check with your provider to see what’s included in your plan.

Genetic Tests for Cancer

We offer genetic tests that may reveal if you’re at increased risk for several types of cancer, including the following:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Fallopian tube cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Stomach cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Meet Our Genetic Specialist

Prudence B. Lam, MD
Prudence B. Lam, MD Specialty Clinical Genetics, Hematology, Medical Oncology

Cancer Care 

Our services and specialties are here to support you on every stage of your cancer journey, from screening and diagnosis to treatment and survivorship.