Cancer Testing Protocols
Cancer research and science continue to make important strides. This page of our resource guide will highlight important recent trends.
Genomic testing is different from genetic testing because it looks at all of a person’s genes, rather than focusing on a specific gene, or set of genes.
Genomic testing looks broadly for gene alterations, or harmful changes, anywhere in the genetic code.
All cancers contain genetic changes, or mutations, in the genetic code of their cells. These mutations cause cancer cells to grow and spread when they shouldn’t and lead to the development of a tumor. Tumor testing identifies the specific pattern of genetic mutations in a person’s cancer. For some, this testing may lead to a better understanding of their cancer, and possibly how to treat it.
Most mutations in the DNA found in cancer cells happen over a lifetime and are present only in the cancer cells, themselves. These mutations were not inherited, and cannot be passed along to children.
Genomic testing is most typically done using a blood sample that looks for inherited genetic changes as well. Inherited genomic testing looks at the make-up of genes a person is born with that can affect cancer risk. If an inherited gene mutation is found, then other members of a family could have it, too. Knowing about inherited gene mutations can help the relatives of a cancer patient, since those who share this mutation will benefit from special screening and follow-up care.
Genomic testing, whether on cancer cells or through a blood sample, can sometimes allow doctors to recommend certain treatments and chemotherapies that target the specific type of cancer. This targeting can also prevent normal cells from being harmed by therapy and reduce side effects.