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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.

Types of test results

Genetic testing can yield three possible results:

  • a positive test result
  • a negative test result 
  • a “variant of uncertain significance” (VUS)  

A positive genetic test result indicates that a “deleterious mutation” or "pathogenic mutation" was found in a gene asscoiated with increased cancer risk (or, rarely in more than one of these gene).  This means that a change was found in the gene which is known to increase the risk for cancer.  A negative genetic test result means that no such gene mutation was found. A “variant of uncertain significance” or "VUS" means that a change was found that may or may not increase the risk for cancer. 

Genetic testing may have a wide range of effects on people and their families. Some people need additional support from psychologists or other health-care professionals to help them work through the consequences of their test results. Most genetics specialists work with mental-health care professionals who are skilled in helping people cope with genetic test results. 

Some people find it helpful to speak with others who have had genetic testing. FORCE has a rich community of members who have had personal experience with genetic counseling, genetic testing and hereditary cancer.  The FORCE Peer Navigator Program provides free one-to-one support as you make your decsions around genetic testing.

It is important to consult a genetics expert to help interpret and explain genetic test results and provide management recommendations. 

Updated 01/06/2018

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