Cancer Genetic Test for Patients 65+
Clear Bridge Biomedics offers at-home cancer genetic testing for patients aged 65 years and older. When you order this test, we send the testing kit right to your doorstep. All you have to do is follow the instructions included in the kit:
- Perform a cheek swab
- Pack up your genetic sample and return it by mail to our lab.
A team of medical experts will then test your sample for the relevant genes and return your results to you and your doctor as soon as possible.
What do genetics have to do with cancer?
Genes are the basic units of heredity. They are passed down from parent to child and carry the DNA that determines the characteristics of who we are. Sometimes genes can change. When this happens, we call it a mutation. There are many different types of gene mutations, and, depending on what type of mutation it is, they can have good, bad, or neutral effects on you. But there are some specific gene mutations that are associated with the development of certain types of cancer.
What are genetic cancers?
A genetic cancer is one of several types of cancers that are caused by a specific gene mutation. Research shows that gene mutations contribute to about 5–10% of all cancers. There are many types of these cancers that can be passed from parent to child through mutated genes, and they are not infectious. This means they cannot be passed from person to person outside of the parent-child relationship.
The presence of a mutated gene does not guarantee that someone has or will develop the genetic cancer associated with that mutation. What it does mean is that they are much more likely than the average person to develop the associated cancer. They are more susceptible to the effects of certain environmental factors (such as diet or sun exposure) on the development of cancer, but they may also develop cancer without any environmental prompting because of the gene mutation.
That being the case, there are situations under which cancer appears to run in families when it actually does not. Several members of the same family may share a specific environment or lifestyle (such as tobacco use) that can cause them to develop similar cancers, even if they do not carry any cancer gene mutations.
What is cancer genetic testing?
Though not all cancers are hereditary—able to be passed from parent to child—several are. That is where genetic testing comes in. Cancer genetic testing is the process of analyzing cells or tissue to look for mutations in genes that may be a sign a person has cancer or an increased risk of developing cancer. Genetic testing can also help estimate your chance of developing cancer in your lifetime.
Cancer genetic testing can be done when someone has cancer and wants to know whether it was linked to an inherited gene mutation, which can help determine the most effective treatment options for their condition. Another reason for cancer genetic testing is when someone wants to know if they carry the same harmful mutation as a family member who is known to carry it. If you are concerned about your risk for hereditary cancers, you can order a genetic test today.
One common process of cancer genetic testing is cascade genetic testing. Once someone is found to carry a cancer-prone gene mutation, doctors often recommend closely related members of their family get tested to identify who else carries the gene. If one of them tests positive for the gene, the next closest family members are advised to get tested, too. This cascade of testing family members continues until the doctors can determine who all has the possibility of developing the cancer, who carries the gene but will not likely ever get sick, and who does not carry the gene mutation.
What types of cancers are genetic?
Gene mutations have been associated with over 50 different types of cancers. There are genetic tests available for several of them, including the following types:
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Colon cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Stomach cancer
Why should I get a cancer genetic test?
Genetic tests can help predict your risk of a particular cancer, determine if you have genes that may pass an increased risk of cancer to your children, and provide information to guide your health care. Though a cancer genetic test will not be able to definitively tell you if you have cancer, it will let you know if you are at a higher risk of developing cancer than most people.
There are certain aspects of a person’s personal or family medical history that may suggest a hereditary cancer; in these instances, a cancer genetic test to identify if you have a high-risk gene mutation can be beneficial:
- Cancer diagnosis at an unusually young age.
- Someone having several different types of cancer.
- Cancer in both organs in a set of paired organs (such as kidneys or breasts).
- Several first-degree family members (parents, siblings, or children) with the same type of cancer.
- Family members with breast, ovarian, colon, or endometrial cancer.
- Unusual cases of a specific cancer type, such as breast cancer in a man.
- Birth defects that are associated with hereditary cancers.
- Being part of a racial or ethnic group that has an increased risk of a certain hereditary cancer.
- Several family members with cancer.
If a family member has been found to have a hereditary cancer, it is recommended you find out if you carry the same gene—that way, you can manage your own risk of developing cancer. Once you know you have a cancer-prone gene mutation, you can take steps to lower your risk of developing cancer, including with surgery, medication, screenings, or lifestyle changes.
You might also consider a cancer genetic test if you are experiencing symptoms of cancer, including memory loss, abnormal changes in mood or personality, or other cognitive impairment. For those who have already been diagnosed with cancer, cancer genetic testing can provide valuable information to close family members who are concerned about developing the disease themselves.
Once you or a family member have been found to carry a gene mutation associated with a specific cancer, it is recommended that any close relatives get a cancer genetic test so they are well-informed on their risk of developing cancer. That being said, genetic testing is often most informative if it begins with a family member with a previous or current cancer diagnosis, rather than someone who has never had cancer.
Before deciding to take a cancer genetic test, it is recommended that you talk with your family and health care provider to help you make an informed decision. Seeing a genetic counselor is also recommended before and after taking a cancer genetic test. They can help you determine if a genetic test is right for you based on your personal or family history and understand the meaning and implications of your test results after you receive them.
How is genetic testing done for cancer?
There are different types of cancer genetic tests, including those that look at a single gene and those that look for harmful gene mutations in multiple genes at the same time, which are called panel, or multigene, tests.
The test is performed on a small sample of bodily fluid or tissue. Many genetic tests use blood samples, but with the Clear Bridge Biomedics Cancer Genetic Test, our team of medical experts examine saliva and cells from inside the cheek, which you acquire using a cheek swab. Once you swab your cheek, you pack up your sample and send it in to our lab for testing. Test results will be sent back to you within the next several weeks.
Other Cancer Genetic Testing FAQs
What do the results of the genetic testing mean? If I test positive, does that mean I have cancer?
A positive result means that you were found to have a gene mutation that is associated with a genetic cancer. If you have previously been diagnosed with cancer, a positive result confirms that the cancer was likely due to an inherited gene mutation—this knowledge helps guide treatment choices. If you have not been diagnosed with cancer, a positive result shows an increased risk of developing a certain type of genetic cancer (depending on the mutation that was found). This result helps guide lifestyle and treatment choices to manage your risk of developing cancer. Anyone receiving a positive result is also receiving important information for helping family members make decisions about their own health care.
A negative result means that you were not found to carry a specific gene mutation. This result is most helpful when there is a specific gene mutation known to be present in other family members.
How do I know what my results are?
Your results will be returned to you after our medical experts at Clear Bridge Biomedics examine your sample, but you may not be able to understand your results on your own. This is where seeing a genetic counselor is helpful—they can help you understand your results and know what steps to take moving forward.