What is genetic testing and do I need it?

Lisa Michels
Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is done through a blood or saliva sample in the clinic. This sample identifies specific inherited changes (mutations) in a person’s chromosomes to help detect increased risk of certain cancers. Genetic mutations can have beneficial, harmful, or no effect on health. Mutations that are harmful may increase a person’s risk of developing a certain cancer. Overall, inherited mutations are found in about 5-10% of diagnosed cancers.  Typically cancers that are caused by a genetic mutation tend to be more aggressive and occur at a younger age.  

Family history is a strong indicator of a genetic mutation. If breast cancer is diagnosed under the age of 50 in one or more close relatives - which is defined as first degree (mother, sister, daughter) second degree (aunt or grandma) or third degree (cousin) - you meet the criteria for genetic testing. The criteria are also met if there are any close relatives with pancreatic or ovarian cancer at any age.

If your family has had early onset breast or colon cancers, any ovarian cancer or any pancreatic cancer, you may want to consider genetic counseling. Call the Agnesian Cancer Center at (920) 926-4100 to learn more or to schedule an appointment.

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