Who Do You Know That Needs to Know?

Genetics Institute of America (GIA) is a leading cancer diagnostics and pharma-services laboratory serving physicians and their clients with advanced, prognostic and predictive testing.

Q: Why should I get tested?

Testing for inherited risks of cancer helps you and your doctor understand your risk so you can make the best choices for preventive medical care. Knowing your family history is an important first step, but testing can give you a more accurate picture of your inherited risk.

Q: How many people have an inherited risk for cancer?

Out of every 100 people diagnosed with cancer, about 5-10 people (5-10%) have an inherited risk for cancer.

Q: What is sporadic cancer and how is it different from hereditary cancer?

Cancer is a common disease. Most cancers are considered sporadic, meaning they are not due to hereditary factors (gene mutations that are passed down from parent to child). People can develop sporadic cancer for many reasons: aging, environmental exposures, certain lifestyle factors, or chance events. When a cancer is hereditary, it is mainly due to a gene mutation (in addition to the reasons listed above).

Q: What are some genetics basics that are helpful for me to know?

Genes are made up by the DNA we inherit from our parents. We all have two copies of each gene (one from each parent). The DNA sequence of a gene is a code with instructions to make a functioning protein (like a recipe). Inherited changes to the DNA code can cause the gene to stop working. This prevents the protein from being made properly. Certain types of genes are responsible for controlling how cells grow. These genes help prevent cancer. People who inherit a mutation (change to the DNA sequence) in a gene that normally prevents cancer may have increased cancer risks.

Q:  What does a gene mutation mean about my risk for cancer?

A gene mutation means that your risk to develop certain cancers in your lifetime is increased. Learning about these gene mutations helps to predict what type of cancer you may develop.

Q: How do I get tested?

Ask your doctor if testing is right for you. If so, your doctor will have you gather a DNA sample from a noninvasive buccal swab and sent the sample to Genetics Institute of America for analysis.

Q: How long does it take to get the test results?

Your doctor will let you know your test results as soon as they are available. As early as two weeks from the date your test is started (2-4 weeks).

Q: Does a positive test result mean that I have cancer?

No. Genetic testing does not tell you if you currently have cancer. Your test results tell you about your inherited risk of developing cancer.

Q: Does a positive test result mean that I will develop cancer?

No. Genetic testing does not tell you whether you will develop cancer. A positive test result tells you that you have an increased risk of cancer.

Q: Is genetic testing covered by health insurance?

Genetic testing is usually covered by insurance when indicated. Coverage usually depends on many factors, including your specific insurance plan and the cancer history in your family. The genetic counselor will review this information with you during your initial genetic counseling appointment and may be able to work with your insurance company to obtain coverage for testing. For patients who are not covered for genetic testing by insurance, it is important to note that the cost of genetic testing is becoming more affordable for patients who have to pay for this out of pocket.

Q: Is my genetic information protected?

Yes. Your genetic test results are protected under the same HIPAA laws as the rest of your medical records. In addition, there are Massachusetts state laws and U.S. federal laws which prohibit discrimination in certain circumstances based on genetic test results. This protects people from health insurance discrimination and employer discrimination.

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