Why is it genetic testing important when it comes to prostate cancer care? Learn how test results could reveal more about YOUR prostate cancer and may indicate that one treatment may be more effective than another.
Why should you ask your doctor about genetic testing?
The test results may predict how your prostate cancer will behave and could indicate that one type of treatment may be more effective than another type.
Genetic testing identifies specific gene mutations, proteins, chromosomal abnormalities, and/or other molecular changes that are unique to YOU and YOUR prostate cancer.
There are two main types of genetic tests used in prostate cancer:
- Germline or hereditary genetic testing, which is conducted via blood or saliva and identifies inherited gene mutations in the body. Germline mutations are present from birth and can be shared among family members and passed on to subsequent generations. Results can identify whether you could be at risk for another type of cancer or if your family members may need genetic counseling and testing to guide their own cancer risk.
- The second is somatic or tumor genetic testing, which is performed through testing tumor tissue or by testing cancer cells/DNA extracted from blood to identify gene mutations that are unique to the cancer itself. It is also commonly referred to as genomic testing, biomarker testing, or molecular profiling. Somatic mutations are NOT inherited and are NOT passed on to subsequent generations or shared among family members.
- Depending on your history, your doctor may order one–or both–of these types of tests.
So why do the test results matter?
Both germline and somatic mutation testing can identify the presence of certain genetic mutations that may help to guide your treatment plan, and germline testing specifically can inform cancer risk for you and, potentially, family members.
- In some cases, mutations can indicate that a newer approach, such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy, may work better for you.
- Results of these tests may also help you to find a clinical trial that may be appropriate for your particular cancer.
- And, genetic testing results could also show that your cancer has a mutation or marker that may prevent a certain therapy from being effective, sparing you from getting a treatment that won’t work well for you.
How can make sure you have had essential biomarker testing?
- First, always speak up and ask questions. Remember, you have a voice in YOUR prostate cancer care.
- Ask your doctor if you have had or will receive genetic testing, including germline and somatic testing, and how the results may impact your care and treatment plan.
- Ask whether your family members should meet with a genetic counselor or undergo testing to help gauge their risk of developing prostate cancer.
- And, finally, bring a friend or a loved one to your appointments to help you process and recall information.
To learn more about your prostate cancer and to access tools for self-advocacy, visit powerfulpatients.org/prostatecancer.