Our expert voices conversation on genetic testing for cancer.
More than 10 percent of all diseases are due to a genetic cause — and more gene-disease links are being discovered at a rapid pace. Genetic testing is used increasingly to help understand risk for cancer. However, a thorough evaluation with a genetic counselor should always go hand in hand with gene testing. Here's a four-step process:
- Is there even a genetic cause for the disease?
- Counseling beforehand and selection of gene(s) to test
- Post-test counseling and advice for managing disease risk
At every step, "gene sherpas" guide patients, their families and their physicians on how to integrate information from the test into their overall health care plan and make informed recommendations about lifestyle modification, intensive screening, preventive measures and possible referrals to specialists.
Bottom line: Precision medicine should become standard practice so patients can benefit from individualized preventive care plans.
The other voices in the conversation:
- Theodora Ross, oncologist, UT Southwestern Medical Center: To test or not to test, that is the question
- Jill Hagenkord, chief medical officer, Color: Preventive genomics has arrived
- Therese Bevers, prevention specialist, MD Anderson Cancer Center: What a cancer-risk assessment can tell you
- Sapna Syngal, geneticist, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Genetic testing doesn't always mean more certainty