Genetic testing can identify patients who have genetic mutations that may significantly increase a person’s risk of developing a disease, such as cancer. For people who have received a cancer diagnosis, genetic testing may help to inform treatment strategies. Genetic tests require either a blood draw or a saliva sample.

The Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics recommends meeting with a genetic counselor before receiving a cancer genetic test. A genetic counselor can discuss the benefits and risks of genetic testing, as well as the implications of positive or negative results, and help you think through any factors that may influence your decision about whether you want to proceed with testing.

Genetic testing for hereditary cancers involves more than the average blood test because it may raise issues of:

  • Test-related anxiety — what will you do with the information?
  • Privacy and confidentiality — who has access to the information?
  • Genetic discrimination — what are the myths and realities
  • Psychological effects within families — how will your genetic test results affect your family members, and how do they feel about you being tested?

Genetics professionals recommend people seek counseling both before and after testing to prepare for the test and understand results.