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How to get a cancer gene test

This page has information about how to get a test. There is information about


Where you can get genetic testing

You can either go through the NHS or you can pay to have a test through a private company. There are pros and cons to both.

Before you have a genetic test privately there are a number of things to consider. When you have a test within the NHS you receive counselling and support to help you work out

  • If you need to have a test
  • Your family history of cancer
  • If you want one
  • What the results will mean for you and your family

Before you decide to pay for a test, ask the company about the service they offer, including

  • Which genes they can test for
  • If counselling is available
  • How you will receive the results

Private companies often ask for a referral from a GP or specialist doctor rather than the person contacting them directly.

Remember that tests are only available for some genes. You can find information about the available tests for specific cancers in the inherited genes and cancer risk section.

The main advantage to having a test done privately is that it may be quicker. However it can be very expensive. Tests vary in cost from about £250 to £2,200.


Seeing your GP

Most people who are concerned about their family history go to see their GP. Your GP will ask you who in the family has had cancer, the type they had and how old they were when they were diagnosed. This will help them work out if you have a strong family history. If you do, they can refer you to your nearest genetics clinic.


Your appointment at the genetics clinic

You need a referral from your GP to go to a specialist genetics clinic. There, you will see a genetics specialist or counsellor who will

  • Look in detail at your family history
  • Work out your risk of developing cancer
  • Work out whether you need and can have a genetic test.

Your first appointment usually lasts for about 45 minutes. During this meeting the specialist will talk to you about the best way to deal with your risk. Not everyone who sees a genetics specialist will need to have a test. And even if you are told you can, when it comes to it, you may choose not to have a test.

Your appointment is your opportunity to ask questions. If you’re not sure what to ask you can find some questions for your doctor in this section. You can print it out and add any other questions you have.

The more you know about your family history, the easier it will be at your appointment. While you’re talking it may be difficult to remember everything. You could write notes or try drawing a family tree beforehand. It doesn’t have to be an expert drawing.

The specialist will want to know

  • Which family members have had cancer
  • The type of cancer they have had
  • Their age at diagnosis
  • Which family members haven’t had cancer
  • How they are all related to you
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Updated: 27 March 2015