How is it used?
The results of genetic testing allows your doctor to better understand your tumour type and prognosis. For some tumours this test is used to select which patients will benefit from different therapy choices. The result can also help doctors predict how a cancer will progress over time which can inform your treatment decisions. Repeat testing may assess the effectiveness of treatment and potentially direct a change in ongoing therapy .
When is it requested?
Somatic tumour testing is part of the initial assessment of many different tumour types where a microscopic assessment is not sufficient to guide treatment choices. If the cancer spreads or changes over time, a repeat test may help to re-assess the effectiveness of therapy.
What does the test result mean?
The results of somatic tumour testing helps your doctor better understand what type of tumour you have. Some therapy options are known only to work for patients whose tumours have specific patterns of mutations. Therefore, knowledge about the genetic mutations present in a tumour can help your doctor recommend the best treatment for your tumour and avoid medications that will be unlikely to provide benefit.
Is there anything else I should know?
Most genetic mutations that cause cancer, occur as new mutations in previously healthy cells. In such cases, the patient was not born with that mutation – only the cells in the tumour have the mutation. However, sometimes tumour testing finds mutations which potentially were inherited from a parent. In these cases the mutation is present in all of the cells of the body and create a risk of developing a specific type of tumour e.g. a risk of breast cancer. If inherited, these mutations may have also been inherited by other family members. Therefore, in some cases the information obtained from tumour testing will direct your doctor to do a blood test which looks for the mutation in your healthy cells not affected by cancer to see if you carry an inherited mutation. When these are discovered, the information can be used to assess other family members to see if they are also at risk of having that specific kind of cancer.