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What is hereditary Cancer?

Cancer is unfortunately very common with 1 in 2 people (50%) being diagnosed at some point in the lifetime: with the majority occurring after the age of 60.  Most cancer occurs by chance, however approximately 5-10% is hereditary and in some families genetic testing may be helpful. In other families, genetic testing may not be helpful but increased cancer screening may be beneficial.

How do I know what cancer screening I need?

A genetic counsellor can analyse your medical and family history to determine whether you need increased cancer screening, and if so, how frequently. They can also discuss risk reducing options such as preventative medication in some families.

What genetic testing is available?

For people with no personal history of cancer it is possible to examine the DNA code for 61 genes which are thought to cause an increased risk of 11 cancers. This is performed on a saliva sample and results take approximately 4 weeks.

It is also possible to perform a genetic risk score to analyse small genetic changes known as SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) relating to breast, prostate and colorectal cancer as well as melanoma and calculate the risk of these cancers. For more information about this please click here.

For some people testing for both the pan-cancer panel and genetic risk score may be appropriate. The genetic counsellor can explain this in more detail.

How do I know if I am at risk?

Families with hereditary cancer generally show one or more of the following clues:

  • Multiple individuals with the SAME or LINKED cancers on the same side of the family
  • Early onset cancer (before the age of 50)
  • Several affected generations
  • Individuals who have been diagnosed with multiple cancers


There are two main groups of cancers which can be linked in some families. These are:

  • Breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers
  • Bowel, womb, stomach, prostate and ovarian cancers

How common are pathogenic variants?

Most cancer occurs by chance and usually occurs later in life. However, 5-10% of cancer can be inherited and may be due to a pathogenic variant in a specific gene; the exact risk depends your medical and family history. Our genetic counsellor can give you an indication of your personal risk.

How can genetic testing help?

Genetic testing can help determine the risk of cancer within a family and guide appropriate cancer screening. Depending on the specific genetic risk, different screening tests can be arranged, and risk-reducing strategies can be considered.

Individuals with an increased risk of cancer generally have several options:

  • Increased breast cancer screening: usually with mammograms but possibly also with breast MRI
  • Medication to lower the risk of breast cancer, known as chemoprevention 
  • Risk reducing surgery (mastectomy) for those at high risk

What will the test show?

There are two possible results:

  1. A pathogenic variant is found in one of the genes which is known to increase the risk of cancer. Increased screening and/or risk-reducing techniques will be recommended.
  2. No pathogenic variant is found. Cancer screening may still be beneficial and will be advised based on your family history of cancer.


We do not report variants of uncertain significance as these are unlikely to be helpful in healthy individuals and can cause considerable anxiety.

Although variants are not reported they are regularly reviewed by our scientists and in the very unlikely event that a variant is later shown to be cancer-causing we would re-issue your report and contact you to explain this in detail. 

What does it mean if I have a pathogenic variant?

If you have a pathogenic variant this means that you have an increased risk of some types of cancer and is likely to be the cause of the cancer within your family. Your exact risk(s) will depend on which gene variant has been found and extra screening and/or risk-reducing strategies will be discussed.

What are the implications for my family?

If you are shown to have a pathogenic variant it would be possible to offer predictive testing to other people in your family to see if they are also at increased risk. This testing would be free within 90 days, although individuals would need to pay for the initial consultation (£150). Alternatively they would be able to have genetic testing through the NHS.


If your test is normal, we can advise screening for your relatives based on your family history.

Is the test the same as the one offered in the NHS?

Currently the NHS does not offer healthy individuals an extensive genetic panel to look for multiple cancer causing genes.

Why do the prices of genetic testing vary so much?

Historically genetic testing was expensive and done by a method known as sanger sequencing, which could only look at single genes. Now we are able to look at multiple genes simultaneously using NextGeneration sequencing and therefore testing is much more affordable.

At Genetic Experts we do not add additional fees to our tests enabling us to offer them you at a more reasonable price.

How much does testing cost?

The cost for is pan cancer genetic testing is £395.

Book an initial 1 hour consultation for only £150 and find out if you are at risk and learn more.

Have a question for us?

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Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out more about genetic testing and consultations

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