Does Childhood Cancer Run in Families?

  • About 1 in 10 cases of childhood cancer is caused by a pathogenic variant in a gene that can be inherited.
  • Certain types of cancer are more likely to be inherited than others.

Why Should We Consider Genetic Testing For Our Child?

There are many reasons to consider genetic testing, including:

  • Genetic test results may explain why your child has/had cancer.
  • Testing may help doctors decide which types of cancer screening your child may need in the future.
  • Testing may help figure out whether siblings and/or other family members have a higher chance of developing certain cancers and if they need special cancer screening.
  • In some cases, genetic testing may help you and your child’s care team decide on cancer treatments and surgical plans.

What Does the Genetic Testing Process Involve?

  • An appointment with a genetic counselor is an important first step. There are many things to consider before deciding to have genetic testing. A genetic counselor will talk with you about the pros and cons of testing to help you make the right decision for your child and family.
  • Genetic testing is typically done on a small blood sample or saliva sample. The sample is sent to an outside laboratory. Results are usually returned in a few weeks.

Is Genetic Testing Covered By Insurance?

  • Genetic testing is typically covered by health insurance.
  • You will know about out-of-pocket costs (if any) before the test is complete. Ask your genetic counselor if you have any questions about billing.
  • When insurance does not cover the cost of testing, most labs currently offer genetic testing for about $250. Many labs also have payment plans and/or lower cost self-pay options.

How Can I Learn More About the Option of Genetic Testing?

  • It is important to ask your child’s care team whether you should consider genetic testing.
  • If you would like to learn more about the chance for inherited cancer and the genetic testing process, you can arrange to meet with one of our genetic counselors in the MGH Center for Cancer Risk Assessment by calling 617-724-1971.

Genetic testing is always a personal choice. Your child’s care team can help you decide whether it would be helpful to meet with a genetic counselor to discuss the option of genetic testing in more detail.

Genetics Glossary:

  • pathogenic variant: a change in a gene that prevents the gene from doing its normal job-also known as a ‘mutation
  • inherited: passed down in families
  • screening: when a person gets medical exams more often than they typically would because of that person’s increased chance to have a certain disease or condition