Genetic Counseling and Genetic Testing

Written By Tony Subia
June 2020

Why Genetic Counselors and Genetic Testing Matter To You

Genetic counseling and genetic testing can provide crucial insight into a person’s health and expose any inherited genetic mutations that may elevate the risk of developing pancreas cancer or any other type of cancer. Knowing if you are predisposed of getting cancer will help your doctor determine whether or not to implement a surveillance strategy to detect the cancer as early as possible. If testing is positive, particularly if your exhibit other high risk symptoms, your doctor may recommend cancer screening.

Mutated genes cause cancer, whether inherited or acquired. Genes and their potential of abnormal functions are very complex and requires a medically educated professional genetic counselor that can determine if genetic testing is appropriate, what genetic tests should be ordered. and how the test results should be interpreted.

A Genetic Counselor’s Role and Purpose

A Certified Genetic Counselor is a medically educated and trained professional in genetics. Their role is counseling patients to help them make informed decisions to proceed with genetic testing. They review the patient’s family history of cancer along with other risk factors and symptoms to determine whether the patient may be at elevated risk of being predisposed to pancreatic cancer if the patient has an inherited gene mutation.

The counselor will share the pros and cons of being tested and provide guidance both before and after genetic testing. Once genetic tests are concluded, the counselor will thoroughly review the results with the patient and discuss any suggested next steps based upon the test results. If genetic testing reveals suspect inherited gene mutations, the counselor may suggest cancer screening and an ongoing cancer surveillance program.

The Purpose of Genetic Testing

A patient should consult with a genetic counselor to determine if genetic testing is a necessary step going forward. Generally through a blood or saliva sample, genetic testing examines a person’s genes, chromosomes, and proteins to identify any inherited gene mutations which may increase the risk of pancreatic or any other type of cancer or disorder.

Various studies show that inherited genetic mutations account for about 10 to 15% of all cancer cases including pancreatic cancer. If a significant family history of pancreatic cancer exists, the risk of pancreas cancer becomes
magnified. The overwhelming balance of cancers are caused by gene mutations acquired after birth versus being inherited.

Understanding the implications of genetic test results can become complex. Inheriting a genetic mutation(s) which could predispose a level of risk of getting any cancer does not mean developing pancreatic cancer of other types of cancer is inevitable. Again, most cancers are caused by acquired gene mutations via risk factors can and cannot be self modified. A key to avoiding pancreatic cancer is developing a healthy lifestyle. Stay active. Don’t smoke. Avoid becoming obese, and eat a healthy diet that inhibits acquiring type 2 diabetes.

Those Who Should Consider Genetic Counseling and Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is not necessarily of benefit for everyone. Medical experts generally recommend counseling and testing for those considered at elevated risk. That would include those with a family history that suggests an inherited mutated gene syndrome and possibly those with multiple high risk factors such as being a heavy smoker, being obese, and having type 2 diabetes as determined by a certified genetic counselor. Most studies recommend that all pancreatic cancer patients should always get genetic tested.

Related Reading About Genetic Counseling and Testing

Genetic Testing For Inherited Cancer Syndromes

Side-Stepping Your Genes To Live Longer

Reducing The Risk of Getting Pancreatic Cancer


The above content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. It is only intended for educational and informational purposes. It you are trying to determine whether or not you should get genetic counseling or genetic testing, make sure you are aware of your family history of any type of cancer and then consult with your family physician for any relevant professional advice.

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