According to WHO, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated 1 in 6 deaths in 2020. These numbers are expected to rise as the world population continues to grow and age.
Cancer is caused by several factors, including lifestyle choices, environmental factors, and heredity. In some cases, cancer may be linked to an individual’s genes. When this is the case, it is referred to as hereditary cancer. Hereditary cancer accounts for approximately 5-10% of all cancer cases.
What is genetic testing for cancer?
Genes are the instructions that tell our cells what to do. We inherit our genes from our parents. Mutations, on the hand, are changes in our DNA. Some mutations are harmless, while others can cause disease.
A mutation passed down from generation to generation is called a germline mutation. They are usually passed down in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means that only one copy of the mutated gene is needed to cause the disease.
Individuals with a strong family history of cancer may be at increased risk for carrying a germline mutation. Genetic testing can identify individuals who carry these mutations and are at increased risk of developing cancer.
So, what is genetic testing?
Genetic testing is a way to look at an individual’s genes to see if they have any mutations that could cause disease. They can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions, including cancer. It can also be used to predict an individual’s risk for developing certain diseases.
Different types of genetic tests screen for hereditary cancer. These tests can detect changes in genes that are known to be associated with an increased risk of developing cancer. They can also help identify individuals who may be at a higher risk for developing cancer. However, note that a positive test result does not mean that an individual will definitely develop cancer.
The two main types of genetic testing include;
- Single gene panel testing-Single gene panel testing looks at one gene at a time. This type of testing diagnoses a specific condition that runs in the family.
- Multigene panel testing– Multigene panel testing looks at multiple genes at once. It is used to screen for hereditary cancer syndromes.
Benefits of genetic testing for cancer
With the current statistics on cancer in mind, it is evident that early detection is key to successful treatment. Here are some benefits of genetic testing for cancer;
Helps to identify individuals at high risk for developing cancer
One of the most important benefits is that it can help identify individuals who are at high risk for developing cancer. This is important because early detection is key to successful treatment. However, note that someone with a high or low chance of developing cancer is not guaranteed to develop the disease.
Helps to provide information about cancer risk to family members
If a person has a positive test result, it is important to know that they may have an increased risk of developing cancer. This information provides guidance and support to family members who may also be at risk.
Helps to guide cancer treatment
A positive test result can help guide cancer treatment. This is because it provides information about the type of cancer an individual may be at risk for developing. It can also provide information about how likely the cancer is to spread.
Risks of genetic testing for cancer
Like any other medical test, there are some risks associated with genetic testing. These risks include;
False positives and false negatives
A false positive is when a test says you have a mutation when you do not. On the other hand, a false negative is when the test says you do not have a mutation when you actually do. These false results may lead to stress and anxiety, which can greatly affect your quality of life.
For instance, if you are into online gaming and are looking forward to taking advantage of the Grande Vegas casino bonuses during your free time, then suddenly, your doctor calls to tell you that your test results were positive and you might have cancer. This would obviously change your plans and state of mind.
Another risk is the cost of the test. The cost of genetic testing can vary depending on the type of test being done. However, most insurance companies cover the cost of genetic testing if it is recommended by a doctor.
Ethical and social implications
There are also some ethical and social implications of genetic testing. For instance, the results of a genetic test can have a profound impact on your family. This is because the results may reveal that you are at risk for developing a certain disease that could be passed down to your children. Additionally, genetic testing can also have implications for insurance and employment. For instance, if you test positive for a genetic mutation associated with an increased risk of developing cancer, you may be denied life insurance or charged higher premiums.
There you have it! These are some of the benefits and risks of genetic testing for cancer. It is important to remember that the decision to undergo genetic testing is a personal one and should only be made after consultation with a doctor.