How Much Does Genetic Testing for Cancer Cost?
In recent years, genetic testing for cancer has become increasingly relevant. As more research is being conducted, genetic markers can significantly predict cancer risk. However, genetic testing can have very high costs that can vary based on the type of testing, the number of genes being tested, insurance status, and location. On average, these tests range from $249-$6040.
Costs of Genetic Testing Based on Genes
Genetic tests can provide you with much information about your cancer risk and overall care. Although no genetic test can confirm or diagnose you with cancer, it can help to illuminate your overall risk of inheriting cancer so you can take the appropriate precautions.
As of 2023, there are a large number of cancers that have genetic markers that can be tested for. Most of these tests will screen you for multiple genes involved in the disease of interest. However, testing will vary from company to company and might be tumor-specific or completely comprehensive. These primarily include but are not limited to the following.
|Type of Cancer||Mutated Gene||Cost|
|Gastric Cancer Panel||19-gene panel||$540|
|Solid Tumor Panel||46-gene panel||$449|
Genetic Counselor Costs
Genetic counseling can be essential to early cancer detection and risk prediction. Your doctor might recommend or refer you to a counselor to assist you in proper genetic testing and to help you choose the best test for your needs. Genetic counseling costs $213, with an average total of $2057.
Genetic counselors should be certified and have graduate-level medical genetics and counseling education. These counselors are not mandatory but can significantly benefit your care. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), genetic testing is only recommended after genetic counseling.
Your genetic counselor will review your family's medical history during your visit. Going over your family's medical history will give you a better understanding of what genes put you at risk for developing certain cancers. Your counselor can also give you an educated estimate of your risk of developing cancer and advise on what tests you should purchase.
Do I Need Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing can be helpful for everyone regardless of family history. However, the decision to pursue genetic testing should be based on several factors. The ASCO recommends that individuals with a personal or family history of cancer seek testing.
A family history that indicates high risk includes:
- multiple relatives with cancer on the same side of the family
- diagnosis of cancer at younger ages
- rare cancers
- family members with multiple tumors.
Suppose you find that you do have a family history of cancer. In that case, it is important to understand what type of cancer it is and the age of diagnosis.
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How is Genetic Testing Performed
Genetic testing requires informed consent from the patient. Once the consent form is signed, your provider will take a sample of your blood, saliva, or cheek cells and send them to a designated laboratory. The turnaround time is usually 2-3 weeks. Your provider or genetic counselor will share and discuss the results with you. These tests are generally easy to perform and painless. Still, patients and their families should carefully consider the emotional consequences.
Genetic Testing Insurance Coverage
Most genetic services are covered by commercial insurance plans as long as it is deemed medically necessary. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) protects individuals from getting higher insurance premiums based on their genetic information. As such, if you are at higher risk of a particular type of cancer, these results will not affect your insurance.
Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare and Medicaid can provide some coverage for genetic testing. Medicare, in particular, has limited coverage of genetic testing. Only individuals with a cancer diagnosis who meet further criteria may be qualified for testing coverage. However, Medicare does not cover pre-diagnostic genetic testing coverage to estimate risk.
Medicaid, on the other hand, will cover BRCA genetic counseling and testing for individuals who qualify. These qualifications are generally limited to those with a known family mutation or history of cancer. Some states will vary in their genetic testing coverage, but most will cover BRCA testing. You can visit the Kaiser Family Foundation for more information about your state’s Medicaid coverage.
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Home-based Genetic Tests
There are a number of direct-to-consumer, at-home DNA tests that can be utilized to evaluate your risk for certain diseases. However, approved home-based genetic tests for cancer are very limited. As of 2022, only one home-based genetic test has FDA approval to predict risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer.
This test, known as the 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk, can provide significant information to consumers at higher risk for cancer. However, it is essential to note that you should discuss this test at length with your healthcare provider. You should not use it solely to guide any possible therapies or diagnoses. You can find the package insert for this test here for your reference. This test cost $199.
Genetic testing can be an incredibly useful tool to help individuals estimate their risk for cancer and take the appropriate precautionary measures. However, on average, these tests come with a high cost of $249-$6040. Additionally, these genetic tests should be used with genetic counseling, which can lead to additional costs. Home tests exist but are limited and should only be performed with healthcare professional guidance. Regardless of these costs, genetic testing and preventative health are incredibly important.
Sophie is a 2024 Pharm D. candidate studying pharmacy at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She has a passion for healthcare and writing and hopes to make meaningful contributions to healthcare transparency and accessibility. In her free time, she likes to take care of her houseplants, cook, and hang out with her cat.