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Cancer Genetics

Genetic Testing for Ten Year Old Niece

01/21/2000

Question:

My sister (age 42) and Mom (age 70) have both been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year, we are trying to make decisions about my sister`s daughter (age 10) as to whether to be genetically tested for predisposition, etc.

Answer:

In order to decide whether or not you should pursue genetic testing, we recommend that you undergo full genetic counseling. A genetic counseling session lasts approximately 1-2 hours. During the session the genetic counselor will obtain a family history, attempt to document by medical records all cases of cancer in a family, explain hereditary breast cancer, discuss risks and benefits of testing, discuss cancer risks for your specific family and if tested the likelihood that they would find a gene change. Genetic counseling is meant to help families make an informative decision about whether genetic testing is right for them. By attending a genetic session you are NOT obligated to have genetic testing, in fact, most genetic counselors recommend that after the initial session that you take time to think about your decision and discuss testing with your family members. The blood draw for testing is usually done at a second appointment and a third appointment is arranged to discuss results and recommendations based on the test results.

For any family considering genetic testing, we recommend that testing first be performed on someone who has had cancer since the results obtained from testing an unaffected individual may be difficult to interpret. In your family, we would begin testing with your sister. If your sister elected to have genetic testing this information could benefit you as well as other family members regarding their health care.

Testing would not be completed on your niece or on any other minors in your family until they reach adulthood. Presymptomatic genetic testing is performed on minors only if the knowledge that they carry a gene that predisposes them to the development of cancer would benefit them as a minor or alter their current health care. For hereditary breast cancer, this is not the case. Screening recommendations would remain the same whether your niece was tested now or as an adult. As adults any current minors would then need to receive full genetic counseling to aid them in their decision about whether or not to pursue genetic testing.

To find a Cancer Genetic Counselor in your area and additional information on hereditary breast cancer, you can search the websites listed below.

Related Resources:

National Society of Genetic Counselors
CancerNet
NIH

For more information:

Go to the Cancer Genetics health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Beth  A Poling, MS Beth A Poling, MS
Cancer Genetics Counselor
College of Engineering
University of Cincinnati