Genetic Testing FAQs
Answers to common questions about genetic testing for cancer.
Who qualifies for genetic testing?
Anyone can get genetic testing, but it’s recommended for those who meet any of the following conditions:
- Personal or family history of breast, colon, or uterine cancer diagnosed before age 50
- Personal or family history of ovarian, pancreatic, or metastatic prostate cancer diagnosed at any age
- Multiple cancers on the same side of the family
Is the cost of genetic testing covered by insurance?
Most people with a personal or family history of cancer as described above will meet their insurance guidelines, and the testing will be covered in full. Patients should always check with their insurance provider before any procedure to learn what is and is not covered.
I do not have a personal or family history of cancer; can I still get genetic testing?
Anybody who wants to be proactive about their cancer screening is a candidate for genetic testing, but people who do not have a personal or family history of cancer may likely pay the cost for the test out of pocket.
How much does genetic testing cost?
In 2006, genetic testing for just the BRCA1 and 2 genes cost$6,000. Now, technological advancements and competition in the testing industry have brought the prices down to a much more reasonable level. At one lab, a complete panel testing 77 different genes costs $249.
What does genetic counseling and testing involve?
Genetic counseling and testing is a three-part process: the initial consultation, the test, and post-test counseling. At the initial consultation, the provider will spend about 60 minutes reviewing the patient’s personal and family history, explaining the testing process, and talking about possible outcomes. For the test, two tubes of blood are taken, then sent to a lab. The results are usually available within three weeks, at which point the provider will schedule a post-test counseling session to go over the results, answer any questions, and discuss any ongoing management and testing plans that might be recommended.
Can genetic testing tell me if I will get cancer?
The provider can use your test results to estimate the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis in your lifetime. Keep in mind, there are many other factors besides genetic makeup that will influence the possibility of a cancer diagnosis.
If my genetic testing is negative, does that mean I will not get cancer?
Not necessarily. A negative genetic test result means you do not have a genetic disposition to cancer. Only five to 10 percent of cancers are hereditary, so you may have other risk factors for the development of cancer.
For more information, see Assessing Your Cancer Risk with Genetic Testing.