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What All Cancer Survivors Should Know About Genetic Testing

University of Rochester Medical Center

June 27, 2022

Ashley L Hendershot, NP DNP

What All Cancer Survivors Should Know About Genetic Testing

It’s one of the most common questions to have after finding out you have cancer, especially if others in your family have had cancer, too: How did I get cancer and could it have been passed from a family member?

Research shows about 10% of cancers have a hereditary component, meaning the person inherited a mutation in their genes that puts them at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

If you’ve ever had a cancer diagnosis, you may be eligible for genetic testing, but you may have some questions before you take the leap. Ashley Hendershot, D.N.P., F.N.P.-B.C., B.S.N., works as a nurse practitioner with Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction Program and answers some common questions below.

Should all cancer survivors get genetic testing?

It depends on the type of cancer. Most cancer types meet criteria for genetic testing. Some of the most common cancer types that meet criteria include breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, colon, and uterine. However, some cancer types are not associated with genetic predisposition and are usually related to environmental exposures. For example, lung cancer tends to be tied with smoking or other risk factors in the environment, while cervical cancer is most often caused by a previous HPV infection.

No matter what kind of cancer you had, if you are interested in knowing about whether you should get genetic testing, you should feel empowered to talk with your primary care provider or oncology team.

What are the benefits for genetic testing in cancer survivors?