Genetic testing is the scientific testing of a person’s genes. Genetic testing is usually undertaken when someone is at a high risk of having inherited a changed gene, based on a strong family history of cancer.
It's possible to test for some changed genes that increase the risk of certain cancers. For example, two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 are now known to be important in hereditary breast cancer.
Only a few Australian laboratories can do genetic testing.
It's important to note that genetic testing is only appropriate for a small number of families referred to family cancer centres. Some changed genes may not be picked up using existing technology.
Eligibility for testing is based on family history and other criteria, and is assessed independently for each family. The process usually starts with a family member who already has a specific type of cancer. If the changed gene causing the cancer is found, testing may be offered to other family members who have no signs of cancer.