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There were 18 million cancers diagnosed in 2018. Nearly 5 million could have been treated more effectively if they’d been detected sooner.

Your family history of prostate or breast cancer can help you understand your own risk, and help you plan accordingly, improving your chances of a long and healthy life. “The goal of genetic testing is to help people prevent disease, or detect it at a more treatable stage,” notes Sarah Nielsen, MS, LCGC, medical affairs liaison at Invitae, a genetic information company.

Benefits of genetic tests

Genetic testing like Invitae’s Cancer Screen is non-invasive and can have an impact on your future health. “The process involves submitting a blood or saliva sample at your healthcare provider’s office or even from home,” explains Nielsen. “Approximately 1 out of every 11 healthy individuals will have an actionable finding.”

While a test result indicating a risk doesn’t mean you will develop a specific disease, knowing that you’re at higher risk means you can monitor your health more closely. And these tests often reveal risks for other family members.

Prostate cancer

One group that could benefit from genetic testing is men at risk for prostate cancer. “Men who are genetically predisposed are 2-5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer,” Nielsen notes.

Invitae’s Cancer Screen offers testing for up to 61 genes related to prostate and other cancers. Early detection is crucial in prostate cancer; when found in the early stages it’s very treatable, often without surgery. When detected later, aggressive treatments are often necessary — and survival rates drop. And for men who have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer — about 10 percent of whom have a genetic mutation linked to hereditary cancer syndromes — knowing about genetic changes can inform and tailor your treatment options.

For Nielsen, the bottom line is knowing your risk. “The more you know about your health, the more action you can take to prevent negative outcomes,” she says.

To learn more about prostate health, visit www.invitae.com.

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