Do you have to be tested for an inherited gene mutation if you have already had cancer?
Can a woman get a genetic mutation from her father?
If you have an inherited gene mutation, does this mean you will definitely get cancer?
All of these are great questions and point to the many misunderstandings and misconceptions about inherited genetic mutations for cancer. One genetic counselor, Monique Lubaton, who works at LifeBridge in Baltimore Maryland, wants to clear up some of the misconceptions about cancer and being tested. Learn more below, or at the Summit Medical group here.
True or False: How many of these myths can you spot?
1. Genetic testing is not beneficial
False: The truth is that genetic testing for cancer can actually help people who have a history of cancer in their families, because it can catch the cancer at an early stage. Genetic testing can be especially helpful for people who have family members who have had ovarian, prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancer.
New therapies have been made to target people with genetic mutations. The testing is less pricey then people realize and insurance can often pay for the test.
2. A negative BRCA1 or BRAC2 mutations is a sign that a person doesn’t have the syndrome for hereditary cancer.
False: One in 40 people with an Ashkenazi Jewish background have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation (compared to 1 in 500 of the general population). These genes are most commonly associated with hereditary breast cancer or ovarian cancer. However, there are other causes of hereditary breast or ovarian cancer as well and a person may still be at risk even if the BRAC1 and BRAC2 mutations are negative. Being checked is still important.
3. A woman cannot get a genetic mutation from her father
False: Pretty much all cancer mutations that are hereditary can be inherited by the mother or the father. While it might seem intuitive to assume that ovarian and breast cancers come from the female parent, fathers can actually pass on the mutations that cause these cancers as well.
4. If you have already had cancer once, there’s no point in testing for genetic mutations that predispose you to cancer
False: It’s important to note that people with cancer-causing mutations are more at risk for having multiple cancers in their lifetime. So, if you’ve already had cancer, it is especially important that you know whether or not a mutation was responsible for it. Only 5-10% of cancer is the result of a gene mutation, but it is still important to be tested. If a parent has a genetic mutation it is crucial for the child to get genetic testing as well.
Hereditary cancer symptoms can include cancers that occur before the age of 50, having the same cancer as three or more family members on the same side, and having one family member with multiple types of cancer.
5. If you have a genetic mutation, you will definitely get cancer
False: Just because someone has an inherited genetic mutation does not mean he or she will necessarily get cancer. Most hereditary cancer syndromes hold moderate to high risk of developing cancer but this can be lowered with “guided management.” Therefore, it is better to know one’s status then to fearfully avoid genetic testing.