Genetic Testing for Cancer

Genes are like the blueprint for your body. They determine things like the color of your hair and eyes and can also play a role in your future health. Knowing if you have a genetic risk for cancer helps you and your provider develop a prevention or treatment plan.

What is Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing helps determine the likelihood of developing the disease in the future. Researchers have identified genes that increase the risk of developing certain cancers. These include breast and ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer and male breast cancer. Genetic testing is used to detect mutations in your genes. The mutation indicates a higher risk for developing cancer in the future.

The results can fall into one of three areas:

  • Positive test result – the test found a genetic mutation known to cause a certain cancer.
  • Negative test result – the test did not find a genetic mutation.
  • Uncertain –there isn’t enough information about a genetic change to determine whether it is normal or can cause disease.

The likelihood of developing various cancers depends on the gene where the mutation is found.

What is Genetic Counseling?

Genetic counseling before and after testing helps prepare you to manage the information that comes from testing.

If you have a high risk of developing hereditary cancer, a genetic specialty will discuss the pros and cons of testing. They’ll talk to you about how the test results can potentially guide you in the future. The results can help you and your provider make decisions about cancer screenings or cancer treatment.

Benefits of Genetic Testing and Counseling

Results from genetic testing can help your health care provider in their treatment recommendations. For example, your provider will use that information to create a screening plan. They may even recommend a more aggressive route of treatment.

What to Expect

A genetic test uses a sample of your blood or saliva. It examines your DNA, the chemical database that carries instructions for your body’s functions.

The first step is filling out a genetic cancer risk assessment about your family cancer history. Our team will gather more information during your first appointment to create your pedigree or family tree.

We will discuss the significance of particular risk factors and the role genes play. We will also evaluate whether genetic testing will help determine your chance of developing cancer.

A genetic blood or saliva test can be ordered during your first appointment. You then visit an OSF lab for the test. Following your test, a genetic counselor meet with you. They will: 

  • Detail if any gene mutations were identified and what it’s responsible for doing
  • Explain what type or types of cancer you may be at increased risk for
  • Determine recommendations to help reduce the risk of cancer or to be able to catch it early

Get Started

Genetic testing is a personal decision. In addition to talking with your primary care provider. You can also ask to meet with an OSF genetic counselor. They can help you decide if testing is right for you.


Oftentimes the cost for genetic testing is covered by insurance. Like any health care test or procedure, you should check with your insurance company about coverage before having any testing done.


Cancer Genetic Testing Blog
What to Know About Genetic Testing for Cancer
If you have a family history of cancer, knowing if you have a genetic risk can help guide your future care.