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What are the Different Types of Genetic Testing?

September 05, 2017

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Genetic testing may not be medically appropriate or necessary for everyone who comes through our doors at Moffitt Cancer Center. However, your medical team may recommend genetic testing to help inform treatment and medical management decisions or help us learn if you are at increased risk for specific types of cancer. 

Christine Bruha, genetic counselor
Christine Bruha, genetic counselor

I am sure your next question is, well what are the different types of genetic testing, and what can I learn from these tests?

You may have heard about genetic testing on TV, about Angelina Jolie’s story, online, from your doctor or from a friend; below is a brief summary of the different types of genetic testing commonly discussed:

  • Pharmacogenetic testing can identify genetic differences that affect your response to certain drugs. 
  • Ancestry Genetic Testing is available outside of a physician’s office and can help identify certain information about your ethnicity and where your ancestors came from.
  • Carrier Genetic Testing is often pursued by couples planning on having children together who may have a family history of or are at increased risk for specific genetic conditions (i.e., Cystic Fibrosis or Sickle Cell Disease)
  • Somatic Tumor Testing is ordered by a physician, is performed on tumor tissue to look at the genetic makeup of a tumor. This testing can sometimes help determine which treatments may be most effective.
  • Germline Genetic Testing is a tool to help determine if someone has a specific condition or is at increased risk to develop certain types of cancer. Germline genetic testing for inherited cancer risk looks at the genetic makeup that you were born with and is ordered in the context of a genetic counseling session. In a genetic counseling session, you meet with a genetic counselor who is specifically trained to help you understand your cancer risks based on family history, whether genetic testing is right for you, and what genetic testing could mean for you and your family. 

Here at Moffitt, we utilize Somatic Tumor Testing, an option that may be recommended and ordered directly by a physician to learn more about a tumor, and Germline Genetic Testing, which is discussed during a session with a genetic counselor. Genetic counseling is an option that your physician may recommend based on your personal or family history of cancer but is also available upon request if you want to have a conversation about familial cancer risk. 

To learn more about genetic counseling and the services we provide, please visit our web page or call our Genetics line at (813) 745-3555.