As you know, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., trailing only heart disease. So the more that we can do to screen and test for cancer at an early stage, the better the chances for survival of millions of Americans.
Cancer Genomics tests your DNA for specific genetic defects (such as mutations, insertions or deletions) that are known to increase your likelihood of developing certain types of cancer. It tests for 37 genetic defects and 18 different types of cancers.
What makes this test so powerful is the fact that new genetic sequencing technology makes it possible to understand how one specific sequence of your DNA “codes” for different types of cancer. For example, you’ve probably heard of BRCA1 and BRCA2 – these are two genes that are known to code for breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancer. So, if doctors can identify defects in these genes by sequencing your DNA, then they will know that you are a high-risk candidate for developing those types of cancer in the future.
Only patients with personal history and/or family history of cancer are eligible for this test – and a patient may only do this test once in their lifetime. A family history of cancer is a strong indication that you may be at risk of hereditary cancer.
If a patient had cancer in the past or has cancer currently, this will let that patient know if their cancer was caused by a genetic defect versus other causes. Moreover, knowing about your DNA will enable doctors to set up a targeted, personalized treatment plan. By knowing more about your genes, they will be able to predict how you will respond to treatment.
And if this test shows that the patient does carry a genetic disposition to cancer, it is recommended that their offspring and family also get tested. This is an important way to protect your loved ones.
What this test doesn’t tell you is whether you DO or DO NOT have cancer. This test tells you the likelihood of you developing a certain type of cancer – and it helps you and your physician manage and make more informed decisions about your healthcare. And of course, the earlier you detect and do something about it, the higher chance of survival you would have.
Thus, the purpose of this test is to give you as much of a head start as possible in beating cancer. It can be a valuable tool to diagnose something that your family physician cannot.
This technology has only been around recently. So how did patients know they had cancer a generation ago? When they were already at Stage 2 or 3 – they found out because one night they were rushed to the hospital because they didn’t feel well. And by then, it was too late. And that was my dad. And, without taking this test, it could be one of your loved ones also. Genetic sequencing technology is the future of medicine because it has the potential to save lives by peering into the very essence of what makes us human.