Major retailers and even Amazon carry at-home genetic tests, they can serve as a way to learn about your family’s ancestry. The tests can even provide insight into your body’s medical makeup.
Genetic testing looks at individual genes in your DNA. There’s at-home tests, and then there’s tests your doctor can order. Both can help you understand if you have cancer risks.
“Do you have a mutation in a cancer related gene, that would put you at a higher risk for a particular cancer? And if we can identify that it may give us an opportunity to be more proactive as far as screening, or preventative measures,” Dr. Fiona Denham, breast surgical oncologist at the Goshen Center for Cancer Care.
The at-home tests are easy, using saliva, and accessible, but they’re not for everyone.
“The number of genes, or the scope of what we’re testing also tends to be a really big difference between at-home tests versus what you would have in a medical office,” says Dr. Denham.
The genetic tests in an office use a blood sample, and can provide more information.
“The types of gene testing that we do in the office, again, are usually much larger panels, they cover more genes, and we’re looking at thousands of different variations of those mutations. So, we’re really covering a broader scope of what we’re checking for as far as abnormalities,” she says.
If you have a family history of cancer, Dr. Denham suggests not looking at the at-home tests, but she says they shouldn’t be ruled out completely for others.
“Those are maybe better suited for patients who don’t necessarily have a strong family history of certain cancers, or a personal history of certain cancers, but are maybe just curious. You know, they kind of just want to see what’s out there.”
Dr. Denham says the at-home tests can create false positive results, so if your tests does come back with a cancer gene mutation, you should always contact a doctor to verify results.
For those getting doctor ordered tests, the Goshen Center for Cancer Care uses that information to provide counseling on what the results mean, and establish a better cancer care plan.