Genetic Testing

A cancerous cell is a cell that tends to divide in an uncontrolled way. All cancerous cells originate in one cell in which several mutations (changes within the cell DNA) are accumulated and enable it to duplicate itself in an abnormal manner and become cancerous. Most types of cancers are non-hereditary. Meaning that, the accumulation of mutations in certain cells occur randomly and are not passed on to their offsprings. Only 5-10% of all cancers will develop on a hereditary basis. It is important to emphasize that even if the mutation of one of the genes was inherited, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one will get cancer, but it might increase the probability of getting it when compared to the general population. Those that inherit a cancerous mutation are called ”carriers” and they have a 50% chance to pass it on to future generations. Mutations in certain genes can cause the development of different types of cancers. There are several cancers which might share a hereditary background, such as: Breast, Uterine, Ovarian, Colo-rectal, Stomach, Pancreatic, Melanoma and Prostate.
 Who is at risk?
  • Several family members affected by cancer.
  • If family members develop cancer at an early age (under 50)
  • If family members have several tumors or tumors at several locations (for instance cancer on both ovaries or breast cancer together with ovarian cancer).

 In a situation that the above happens in your family, it is recommended to consult with your treating physician and be referred to a genetic consultant in order to receive a detailed explanation. During this meeting, the consultant will investigate the family background, explain the pros and cons of genetic testing, will evaluate the risk of getting cancer and describe the necessary follow up and prevention process. A genetic test is a blood test in which the DNA is extracted at the laboratory. It is not always mandatory to go through genetic testing. The decision whether to do it and be aware is ultimately yours. However, note that early detection can save lives!