An estimated 5 to 10% of all cases of cancer are believed to be inherited. What is actually inherited isn’t the cancer; instead, a mutated gene that greatly increases the risk of developing a particular type or several particular types of cancer is inherited.
Unlike most genetic tests that only look at a single gene, the Myriad MyRisk test™ is a 25-gene panel that looks for mutations linked to an elevated risk of the most common types of cancer: breast, colorectal, prostate, endometrial, ovarian, gastric, pancreatic, and melanoma.
This gene panel detects 40 to 50% more mutations than any other test currently available. The test results are combined with the patient’s personal and family history to develop a personal risk assessment that can be used clinically to guide medical management decisions.
Who Should Be Tested?
Individuals who have a personal or family history that suggests they may have inherited a mutated cancer-predisposing gene should strongly consider being tested.
The following factors in a personal or family history are suggestive of an inherited predisposition to cancer:
- Developing cancer at a very young (< 50) age
- The same individual develops several different types of cancer
- The same individual develops cancers in both paired organs, such as both breasts or kidneys
- Multiple close relatives all develop the same type of cancer
- The presence of a symptom, such as multiple colon polyps or skin growths, known to be associated with an inherited cancer syndrome
- Being a member of a certain ethnic group known to have a high incidence of a mutated gene
Benefits of Being Tested
There are many benefits to being tested. If the test comes back positive, the individual can begin a program intended to reduce the risk of developing cancer and to catch any cancers that do develop as early as possible, when they are easier to treat.
For example, people who inherit mutations in the APC gene are at high risk of colon cancer, but a program of yearly colonoscopies combined with polyp removal can prevent practically all cases of colon cancer.
Some individuals may opt to undergo prophylactic surgery to reduce their risk of cancer. For example, a woman who has inherited a mutation in BRCA2 is at high risk of both ovarian and breast cancer, but prophylactic removal of the ovaries can reduce the risk of both cancers to practically zero.
Individuals who test negative can experience great psychological relief and improved quality of life. Knowledge of either a positive or a negative test result is important when making decisions about having children.
It’s a good idea to talk to a professional and discuss the issue with the entire family before undergoing testing. Contact Associates in Women’s Health today to make your appointment.