Thinking about cancer or dealing with cancer risk can be scary or overwhelming, but we believe that receiving information and resources is comforting, empowering, and lifesaving.
Several laboratories offer panel tests that search for mutations in many different genes associated with hereditary cancer risk. Some of these panel tests are specific for certain cancers, such as breast and/or ovarian, while others search for gene mutations that are associated with multiple types of cancers. Not all panel tests look for mutations in the same genes, so it is important to consult with a genetic counselor or medical geneticist to help you determine which panel test is right for you.
Many of the gene panels look for mutations in genes known to cause a very high risk for cancer. For many of these mutations there are national guidelines to help health care providers and patients to make decisions about managing risk.
Some gene panels also look for mutations in genes that only slightly increase cancer risk. In many cases, these genes have not been studied to the extent that the BRCA genes have been studied. Often the exact cancer risks associated with these mutations in these genes is not clearly established. Because research on cancer risk associated with mutations in some genes are still in the early stages of research, there are often no national guidelines to help health care providers and patients make decisions about managing cancer risk.
We recommend consulting with a qualified genetics professional before undergoing genetic testing to make sure that the proper tests are ordered and that results are interpreted and explained correctly.