A genetic test can determine the likelihood of developing a specific cancer. The cancers that can be tested for are many, and different DNA testing companies will test for different cancers. If they detect the presence of a cancer-causing gene mutation, they can then determine the probability that the specific type of cancer will develop.
For example, the presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations (which belong to class of genes known as tumor suppressants) is known to increase a woman’s risk of developing cancer if found to be present. In other words, dysfunctional tumor-suppressing genes make it more likely for breast cancer to develop.
It is very important to note that although genetic testing can indicate a high probability of developing a type of cancer, the person might never actually develop the condition. In other words, the test cannot give a definitive “Yes” or “No” answer. Many other factors also come into play when it comes to the onset of cancer.
But why do genetic tests for cancer in the first place if environmental factors also play a role? Well, knowledge of existing genetic risk factors often leads people to change their environment to reduce overall risk of developing cancer. Even people with “bad” genes can reduce environmental risk factors (things that cause cancer in the environment) and still reduce the chances of the illness developing. They can choose to eat right and keep their weight down, for example.
Test results could show a person has a 60% chance of developing prostate cancer. A health care specialist may then relate this to the overall family history of prostate cancer. The health specialist can then begin to formulate an eating plan which involves minimizing or eliminating foods that could increase the risk of developing the condition.
Meat is often something that is reduced in this nutrition plan. Before being processed as meat, animals are often injected with various chemicals. These disrupt the natural hormone balance of the human body. Watching one’s daily meat consumption is also part of maintaining a low fat diet. Low fat diets also avoid fried foods, cheeses and other saturated fats – animal fats are to be eaten sparingly. Studies have shown that men who consume higher amounts of animal fat daily have a greater risk of prostate cancer. On the other hand, fats derived from plants such as olive oil, nuts and avocados may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Weight management is also important, as overweight men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Breast cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer and skin cancer are just some more examples of cancer for which genetic predisposition can be tested. Again, certain changes in daily habits can help lower the chances of developing these cancers. Smokers with high genetic predisposition for lung cancer should see this as the best motivation to stop smoking. Smokers with a high predisposition to prostate cancer would have an additional reason to quit, as smoking has also been associated with a high mortality rate in prostate cancer patients. In fact, studies have shown the smokers at the time of diagnosis of prostate cancer had a higher chance of dying of the cancer or having a relapse than those who had quit smoking ten years before.
A cancer is a tumor that is malignant i.e. there is the uncontrollable growth and division of cells that spread beyond the tissue of origin either locally, or to distant sites. Unfortunately, there seems to be no genetic markers for jaw cancer and no genetic predisposition test to this kind of disease.
These malignant tumors in the jaw may arise from a variety of tissues that make up the jaw. The primary sites can include the epithelial lining (lining of tissue), dental epithelium (a type of tissue in the mouth), cartilage, bone and neural tissue. On the other hand, tumors may grow from distant sites such as the lung and prostate. From here, they can metastasize (experience uncontrollable growth) and spread to the jaw through the blood circulation (haematogenous spread) or through the lymphatic system (lymphatic spread).
Primary jaw tumors most commonly arise from the epitheliial lining (squamous cell carcinomas) and then spread locally to invade underlying bone with consequent symptoms of pain, tingling sensations, numbness, as well as possible fracture of the weakened jaw as bone is eroded and resorbed (known as pathological fracture). Primary jaw tumors may also arise from a variety of epithelial cells of dental origin that lie within the bone itself. These are known as odontogenic tumors. These may be benign or malignant. Bone cancer that arises from bone cells is known as osteosarcoma. Cancers that arise from cartilage are known as chondrosarcomas. Cancers that arise from nerve cells (neural tissue) that is also present in the jaws are known as neurosarcomas.
Since these cancers are malignant, all will require treatment by surgical removal (excision) of the cancer. The removal usually includes a margin of normal looking bone to ensure complete removal. In many cases adjunctive radiotherapy will also be required to ensure any cancer cells left following surgery are killed. Prophylactic (disease preventing) removal of associated lymph nodes is often carried out to ensure that the cancer does not spread through the lymph nodes (known as lymphatic spread).
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