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Genetic testing: the benefits, the risks, and the latest knowledge


(Canadian Breast Cancer Network) — According to Genetics Home Reference, “Genetic testing is a type of medical test that identifies changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.”

How is a genetic test done?
A sample of blood, saliva, hair, skin, or other tissue is sent to a laboratory for analysis. The laboratory then looks at the DNA, chromosomes, genes, and proteins and sends a written report to the doctor or genetic counsellor, or directly to the patient, depending on the test and who requested it.

How can genetic testing inform treatment decisions?
For breast cancer patients, genetic testing may help your oncologist understand whether you may respond better to one treatment over another. Mutations of several genes, including BRCA1 and BRCA2, are linked to breast cancer. Certain newer treatments have shown to be most effective for patients with BRCA-mutations. If you have a BRCA mutation, your oncologist may recommend a different course of treatment than if you didn’t have the mutation. Something to consider is that if you test positive for hereditary germline mutations, like BRCA, this result may lead other family members to be tested as well. (…)

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