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Getting Genetic Test Results

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How long does it take to get genetic test results?

Commercial labs often give faster results (usually within 2 to 4 weeks) than research centers (a minimum of 4 weeks, often longer).

How will you get your results?

Typically, results are sent to your doctor or genetic counselor, who reports them to you. A critical part of genetic risk assessment is the responsible and sensitive disclosure of test results. Be sure to ask your doctor or genetic counselor when, how, and where you will find out the results.

If your genetic testing is done by Myriad, your test results will include a riskScore in addition to the genetic test results. The riskScore combines genetic markers with a woman’s family and personal history to offer an estimate of breast cancer risk, especially for women who test negative for a gene mutation linked to breast cancer. Still, it’s important to know:

  • The riskScore is only validated for people with European and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. The results may be inaccurate if you have any other ancestry.
  • The riskScore very much depends on the accuracy of the personal and family history information sent along with the sample. If your doctor or genetic counselor does not take the time to include all family/personal history, such as age at first period, breast biopsy history, age at birth of first child, age at menopause, etc., the riskScore could be inaccurate.
  • The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the world’s leading cancer centers, does not list the riskScore as a validated method for assessing breast cancer risk in its guidelines at this time.

You may wish to bring someone with you when you get your results. If you are told you have a genetic mutation, having someone who cares about you at your side can be very reassuring. Because a great deal of information is discussed, it may also be helpful to have another person to listen and help remember what was said.

Of course, genetic information can affect the whole family. You might be going through this process with your family involved, in which case they may join you when you get the results. Or you may be the only one in your family who can get this information or who wants it. In fact, some family members may have strong feelings against genetic testing. And sometimes they may ask you to keep the results secret from them and the rest of the world. But keeping a secret doesn't mean you should pursue this process alone and without support. This is one reason why having a genetic counselor to help you through it is so important.

Expert Quote

"I advise women to share their genetic test results with every blood relative in their family! Although I have heard some convincing reasons why someone would not share results (particularly if the relative doesn't want to know), I encourage people who test positive to let family members know — this includes 2nd and 3rd degree relatives.

"Many genetic counselors provide patients with a letter that they can send to relatives if they don't have a particularly close relationship or don't feel comfortable sharing the information by phone or in person. I like the idea of involving the genetic counselor because then the family member knows where to go for more information.

"I also encourage women to share their test results with their healthcare providers. It's important information for your healthcare provider to have. In my case I chose to share my test results with my entire healthcare team."

-- Sue Friedman, M.D.

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