Do I Need Genetic Counseling & Testing?

Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: January 26, 2012


How do I know if I need genetic testing for a cancer?


Jill Stopher, MS, Certified Genetic Counselor at Penn Medicine, responds:

In general, people who are good candidates for genetic testing have these features:

they may be diagnosed at an earlier than typical age for their cancer

there may be multiple people on the same side of the family with the same form of cancer

if they are from an ethnic group that has a higher chance of having a genetically related form of cancer, like breast or ovarian cancer and being of Jewish ancestry.

Generally genetic testing is best initiated in someone in the family who has already had a cancer diagnosis. Getting together the details of your family history is the only way to answer the question - so knowing about your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents cancer histories are used in the assessment. Genetic counselors are specially trained to recognize patterns in these histories, and can tell you more about whether genetic testing may be beneficial. A genetic counselor can be found at A great place to start however is speaking with your own doctor or nurse, once the details of your family history are known.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Focus on Gynecologic Cancers transcript.

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