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Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer

Learn about genes and cancer, signs of hereditary cancer, genetic counseling, types of genetic tests and what results mean for you and your family.

Genetic counseling and testing guidelines for breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancers

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is a consortium of cancer centers with experts in management of hereditary cancer who meet annually to make recommendations on cancer care.  The NCCN updates their guidelines for genetic counseling and testing annually based on the latest research. In general, most doctors consider these guidelines the standard of care.

You should speak with a genetics expert if any of the following apply:  

  • You have a blood relative who has tested positive for an inherited mutation
  • You have been diagnosed with any of the following:
    • Metastatic breast cancer
    • Pancreatic, ovarian, fallopian tube, primary peritoneal or male breast cancer at any age
    • Two separate cancer diagnoses
    • A type of breast cancer called “triple-negative breast cancer” at age 60 or younger
    • Prostate cancer at age 55 or younger or metastatic prostate cancer
    • Colorectal cancer at any age with tumor testing that shows microsatellite instability (MSI-High) or other tumor test results that are suggestive of Lynch syndrome
    • Endometrial cancer at any age with tumor testing that shows microsatellite instability (MSI-High) or other tumor test results that are suggestive of Lynch syndrome
    • More than 10 colon polyps
    • Rare or young-onset cancers
    • Tumor testing that shows a mutation in a gene associated with hereditary cancer
    • You have Eastern European Jewish ancestry and breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer at any age

OR

  • You have one or more close family members who have had:
    • Pancreatic, ovarian, fallopian tube, primary peritoneal or male breast cancer at any age
    • Breast, colorectal or endometrial cancer at age 50 or younger
    • Two separate cancer diagnoses
    • A type of breast cancer called “triple-negative breast cancer” at age 60 or younger
    • Prostate cancer at age 55 or younger or metastatic prostate cancer
    • Colorectal cancer at any age with tumor testing that shows microsatellite instability (MSI-High) or other tumor test results that are suggestive of Lynch syndrome
    • Endometrial cancer at any age with tumor testing that shows microsatellite instability (MSI-High) or other tumor test results that are suggestive of Lynch syndrome
    • More than 10 colon polyps
    • Rare or young-onset cancers
    • Tumor testing that shows a mutation in a gene associated with hereditary cancer
    • Eastern European Jewish ancestry and breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer at any age

This list is not comprehensive; other cancers may be hereditary too.

If you are uncertain if you meet the guidelines above and you are interested in or considering undergoing genetic testing, you should speak with a cancer genetics expert.

Updated 02/08/2020

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