Genetic Assessment and Counseling for Thyroid Cancer
A family history of thyroid cancer or a confirmed gene mutation related to thyroid cancer may increase your risk of developing the disease. If you have either of these risk factors, genetic testing can provide helpful information for treatment planning.
Not everyone with these risk factors will develop thyroid cancer.
During your first visit, your doctor will discuss your type of thyroid cancer, as well as your family and personal medical history. This information will indicate whether genetic testing may be useful. If so, you can speak with our genetic counselors, who specialize in thyroid cancer genetics. A geneticist will take a blood sample and analyze it to determine if you have an inherited gene mutation related to thyroid cancer.
Genetics and thyroid cancer
Most people who develop thyroid cancer have no known risk factors and no family history of the disease. However, some types of thyroid cancer (like medullary thyroid cancer) have a gene mutation (change in a gene) that they inherited from their mother, father, or both parents. Approximately 25% of medullary thyroid cancer cases are hereditary.
What is genetic testing for thyroid cancer risk?
Genetic testing is a medical test that identifies changes in genes, chromosomes, or proteins. For thyroid cancer, genetic testing can show whether you have inherited mutations in genes related to the disease.
The study of thyroid cancer genetics has advanced rapidly in recent years, making more testing options available. We use panel, or multi-gene, testing.
Before undergoing any genetic tests, speak with your doctor and a genetic counselor to understand the risks and benefits, as well as other issues.
Who should consider genetic testing?
Gene mutations are rare. Medical experts recommend testing for people who have specific risk factors:
- Family member (parent, sibling, child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, or first cousin) with an inherited gene mutation related to thyroid cancer
- Personal history of thyroid cancer at age 45 or younger
- Family member diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 45 or younger
- Personal history of thyroid cancer at any age and a family member diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 50 or younger
- Personal history of thyroid cancer at any age and 2 or more family members diagnosed with thyroid, cancer at any age
- Personal or family history of male thyroid cancer
It may be challenging to gather this information from family members. When discussing genetic testing with them, let them know that the results can benefit them, too. The goal is to detect thyroid cancer early.
If you have your family’s medical history, you can bring it to your first appointment. If not, your doctor will discuss your personal medical history with you and help you decide if you should consider genetic testing. Our genetic counselors can help with family communication and work with you to gather the history.
Why have genetic testing?
Whether the results show a gene mutation or not, genetic testing for thyroid cancer can benefit you and your family. The results can:
- Provide information to guide decision-making for cancer prevention and early detection, such as lifestyle choices and increased screening
- Identify family members who are at high risk, as well as those who are not
- Improve the chances of survival for family members who already have thyroid cancer, by providing information to guide treatment choices
Cancer genetic counseling at Stanford
At Stanford, our Cancer Genetics Program offers genetic counseling and testing for people whose medical history indicates a possible gene mutation. Our cancer geneticists (board-certified doctors with two years of specialty training) and licensed genetic counselors help you understand genetic testing and decide whether it’s right for you and your family.
What to expect during your appointment
One of our genetic counselors will meet with you to review your testing options and possible outcomes. We will discuss what the results may mean for you and your family and who else in your family may need testing if the results are positive.
The appointment lasts about 1 hour. If you choose to have genetic testing, we take a blood or saliva sample to collect your DNA for testing. It takes about 2 weeks to 1 month to get the test results. The counselor will call you with the results.
If the results show a mutation, the next step is to meet with the counselor and a cancer genetics doctor. During this visit, we will:
- Explain your test results
- Provide medical recommendations
- Discuss the implications for you and your family members
Current as of: 1/2020