As National Men’s Health Month, June provides physicians and the general public an opportunity to lean in and discuss more on health matters that impact men. One area of concern involves cancer risk. Men are at an increased risk of a cancer diagnosis compared to women, with one in two men getting a diagnosis compared to one in three women.
In some cases, certain genetic testing can provide men with important information.
What type of genetic testing is helpful?
There are many different types of genetic testing available. One that is getting media attention is germline variant testing. Recent research shows that 10% of cancer patients have a germline variant that shows an increased risk of susceptibility to cancer. The most common is a mutation in a gene that indicates an increased risk of breast cancer in men as well as prostate and colorectal cancer. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked into 1,369,602 patients and found that germline genetic testing was positive for 50% of male patients with breast cancer.
One important takeaway from the study: of the patients who received testing when deemed appropriate by practice guidelines, 67.5% to 94.9% identified these variants. This information, as noted above, is important to help tailor treatment options to the patient and better ensure a full recovery.
This is not the first study to find a connection between germline testing and men’s health concerns. Another study from 2021 published in the medical journal Oncology, found this same type of testing can provide important information for men who are fighting advanced prostate cancer.
What is the benefit of genetic testing for cancer patients?
This test can provide medical professionals with information the need to help develop a treatment plan targeted to the patient’s genetics. It can also identify patient relatives that may benefit from additional screening and prevention measures.
There are guidelines that help medical professionals determine when testing is appropriate. When it comes to prostrate cancer, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends germline testing for male patients when the cancer is:
- Node positive or high risk localized;
- Metastatic; or
- Part of a family history.
Other factors within the medical community can guide when testing is appropriate.
What if a cancer patient is not tested?
Although testing is not appropriate for every cancer patient, there are situations when testing can play a crucial role in treatment management. Practice standards guide medical professionals to help ensure they provide quality care to their patients. These tests provide important information that will impact time-sensitive treatment plans. Physicians and other medical professionals who do not meet medical standards of care could be guilty of medical malpractice. This is serious, as it could mean the patient does not receive the treatment they need to beat the disease.