Genetic testing

Cancer is a common disease but only a small fraction of all cancers are due to a mutation (error) in a gene

Some factors that could suggest a genetic cause for cancer include the type and pathology of the cancer, young ages at diagnosis, several cancers in one person or several relatives on one side of a family having cancers that fit a pattern. People from certain ethnic backgrounds may also be at higher cancer risk because some groups have had more genetic changes concentrated in their population over the generations.

In the first instance, it is normally always most appropriate to perform a genetic test in someone who has been affected with cancer within a family.

A genetic test involves having a blood test and the DNA is extracted from the blood sample for analysis. The turn around time for clinical genetic tests varies dependent on the genes which are tested, but for most tests normally takes under eight weeks.

If a mutation is identified, other family members can have testing for the specific mutation, which is quicker and normally takes 2-4 weeks. Genetic test results undertaken through research studies may take several months.

Not all patients or families who attend the Cancer Genetics Unit are offered a genetic test, either because the chance of identifying a mutation is low or because there is not currently a known gene which would account for the pattern of cancer seen in the family. We ask all patients to provide us with detailed information on their family history to make our risk assessment as accurate as possible.

Further information about genetic testing can be downloaded below.

Supported by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity 

Supporters of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity donated £1.16 million to fund the establishment of the Translational Genetics Laboratory.

Help us work towards a future beyond cancer.