Types of Genetic Testing for Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, most people in this country are at least somewhat familiar with cancer. Yet, many people are still unsure of what is going on with their bodies and whether or not they should be getting tested for common types of cancer, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. There are a few different types of tests, some more comprehensive than others. Here are the types of genetic testing for cancer:

1. Germline testing
Germline testing is used to check for different hereditary cancers. Germline tests are usually done to identify abnormalities that either lead to or protect against cancer. Most notably, the test looks for the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are tumor suppressor genes, and the genes that code for the protein p53, which controls cell division and cell death and which, when mutated, can cause cancer. In the case of hereditary cancer, a gene mutation can occur that can be passed down from generation to generation. 

2. Molecular tests
Molecular tests are often used to determine how aggressive a cancer is and how it should be treated. For example, p53 gene testing can determine what kind of cancer a person has and whether or not chemotherapy may be beneficial. These tests can also provide insight into the specific type of tumor a patient has, allowing scientists to put it into a category. This type of cancer testing is also used to determine treatment options and prognosis.

3. Chromosomal tests
Chromosomal tests are often used when the above two methods are inconclusive. These tests look at the specific chromosomes of a cancer cell and identify abnormalities. This information is useful in determining how aggressive a tumor is, how it reacted to treatment, and whether or not it could spread throughout the body. 

4. Gene expression tests
Gene expression tests look for abnormalities or mutations in specific genes that contribute to cancer growth and progression. These tests are becoming more common because they are more efficient than previously used methods, have less impact on the body than traditional testing, and can be done in a doctor’s office with minimal discomfort. These kinds of tests are also more cost-effective and can be used to treat cancer and can even prevent it from happening altogether. Gene expression tests are also a great way to determine how the cancer is progressing and whether or not it can be treated.

5. Newborn screening
Newborn screening is very similar to traditional cancer testing, but it can be done on a newborn rather than an adult. This is another type of genetic test that looks for highly specific mutations in a baby’s genes. These mutations are thought to be in the same places as they are in adults, but they may have happened at a much earlier age and may not have manifested themselves as tumors yet.