• Genetic Testing for Cancer

    While most childhood cancers are not hereditary, certain types of tumors are more likely to be associated with hereditary cancer syndromes. A genetic test can explain why a child or young adult developed cancer and can help to predict whether he/she is at risk for other cancers. Results of a genetic test for cancer can give providers and families a head start on screening, prevention and treatment and could provide important information for members of the child’s family.

    The Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's provides multidisciplinary, consultative care to patients and their families whose condition or family history suggests an inherited risk of cancer. The proven expertise of our pediatric geneticists, genetic counselors and world-renowned pediatric oncologists makes us a leader in identifying hereditary cancer syndromes in families.

    Learn more about genetic testing below, or visit our Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program page to learn about the genetic counseling and consultative care we provide.

    Pediatric Cancer Genetic Testing

    Genes play an important role in determining our health and characteristics. If genes aren't working properly, conditions such as cancer may be more likely to occur. Genetic testing looks for mistakes in the hereditary material (DNA) that make up our genes. Sometimes these mistakes involve small change in the normal sequence of DNA chemical letters that make up our genes, and other times there are larger changes in DNA such as big chunks of extra or missing genetic material.

    Genetic testing is typically done by obtaining a small blood sample and sending it off to a laboratory for analysis of a gene or genes. Alternatively, genetic testing may be performed on a saliva sample through spitting in a small container or swabbing the inside of the cheek with a soft brush. In pregnancy, genetic testing may be performed on a sample of amniotic fluid or on a small piece of the placenta called the chorionic villus. It typically takes 2-4 weeks to obtain genetic testing results.

    Genetic testing may provide useful information, including:

    • May explain why a child had cancer
    • May influence the treatment/surgical plans for a child's cancer
    • May change a child's future medical follow-up
    • May help to determine if a child's siblings or other family members are also at risk for cancer and may impact their medical management
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  • Treating Pediatric Cancer

    Stephen Sallan, MD, discusses treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's.

  • How Genetics Can Predict – and Maybe Stop – Cancer

    Amy and her brother received cancer risk testingGenetic testing revealed that Hunter had the same genetic mutation found in his sister Amy.