Healthcare Cost

How Much Does Genetic Testing for Cancer Cost 2023?

Sophie Wei
Sophie Wei24 Jun 2023

Insights into cancer susceptibility derived from genetic testing are increasing the awareness on early detection and prevention of this condition. But let's face it: the cost of such testing and counseling can be a hurdle. The total expense of these tests can fluctuate dramatically from $249 to $6040, largely hinged on certain variables, such as the type of testing, the number of genes being tested, the beneficiary's insurance status, and the geographical location source: Penn Medicine.

Costs of Genetic Testing Based on Type of Genetic Marker

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 
Breast Cancer BRCA1/BRCA2$300-500
Ovarian Cancer BRCA1/BRCA2 $250 
Prostate Cancer HOXB13 $1000
Gastric Cancer Panel 19-gene panel $540
Solid Tumor Panel 46-gene panel $449
Melanoma CDKN2A$540
Lung Cancer EGFR $890

Understanding Specific Cancer-Linked Genes

Genetic testing provides insights into varied cancer types, linked to specific genes. This relationship between the genes and cancers are a significant cornerstone in the genetic market. Here's a detailed exploration of some noteworthy links:

Breast Cancer (BRCA1/BRCA2)

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes associated with the repair of damaged DNA or destruction of cells with irreparable DNA. Specific inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer U.S. National Library of Medicine. The genetic test for these mutations ranges from $300-$500, making it one of the widely accessible tests available.

Ovarian Cancer (BRCA1/BRCA2)

BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations don't only heighten the risk of breast cancer but also significantly increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The cost of this test is generally lower than the breast cancer test, with pricing around $250 American Cancer Society.

Prostate Cancer (HOXB13)

The HOXB13 gene relates directly to a hereditary form of prostate cancer. The inheritance of a specific mutation in this gene increases the risk of prostate cancer significantly in men. The test for this gene costs about $1000 Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Gastric Cancer (19-gene panel)

19-gene panels are used to diagnose Gastric cancer and can give a more comprehensive understanding of an individual's genetic risk. This panel tests not just one, but 19 different genes associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer, aiming to provide a holistic picture. The test price is around $540 Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Solid Tumor Panel (46-gene panel)

The 46-gene solid tumor panel provides insights into multiple genes linked to solid tumors. The panel tests for mutation in any of the 46 genes, providing necessary guidance for targeted therapies and prognosis. The cost for this comprehensive panel is $449 Genome Web.

Melanoma (CDKN2A)

CDKN2A gene is linked to the incidence of familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome, characterized by an increased risk for melanoma. The cost for testing this gene comes to around $540 Springer Link.

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Lung Cancer (EGFR)

EGFR (Epidermal growth factor receptor) gene mutations have been identified in both non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The mutation test can aid in providing appropriate treatment options and medications. The cost of the EGFR gene mutation test is approximately $890 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Counselor Costs

Closer to the genetics aspect, genetic counseling is nonnegotiable. This step typically involves discussing your family's medical history, understanding your personal risk of developing cancer, and figuring out which genes might pose risks. It's offered at an approximated cost of $213, pushing the average total up to the ballpark of $2057 source: UChicago Medicine.

Genetic Counseling and Testing: Understanding the Process

Significance and Role of Counselors

The role that certified genetic counselors assume in the path to genetic testing is particularly critical. They not only provide help in picking the best test but also furnish you with the confidence of comprehending and willing to undergo the test source: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Family History Review

One of the aspects that your genetic counselor will walk you through is your family's medical history. This walk-through is insightful in that it provides a better understanding of which genes may increase your risk of developing certain cancers.

Result Analysis

Upon receiving the results, your counselor will translate the complex information contained therein into digestible chunks of information - an educated estimate of your prospective chance of developing cancer, and advise on the possible tests you should consider.

Ongoing Support and Guidance

Furthermore, genetic counselors offer ongoing support and guidance regarding potential preventive steps and surveillance strategies. They may also suggest additional family members who may benefit from testing and connect individuals with appropriate resources and supportive services.

Evaluation of Genetic Testing Need

While everyone could potentially benefit from genetic testing, the necessity of undergoing such testing should be rigorously evaluated source: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Highlighted factors catalyzing this need include:

  • Family history suggestive of a genetic condition
  • Personal history suggestive of a genetic condition
  • Need for information to inform medical management or reproductive decision-making
  • Curiosity or desire for information
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Genetic Testing Procedure

Sample Collection

Genetic testing begins with the collection of a biological specimen, which can be a blood, saliva, or cheek cells collected by swabbing the inside of the cheek source: WebMD.

Lab Analysis

Analyzing the collected samples helps to identify changes in chromosomes, DNA, or proteins that can lead to a genetic disorder. The samples will be sent to a laboratory where various techniques like biochemical, cytogenetic, molecular, and genomic testing will be employed according to the specific condition under investigation source: US National Library of Medicine.

Results Dissemination

Upon the completion of a testing cycle (usually within 2-3 weeks), the results will be communicated to you by your provider or genetic counselor. The results could confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person's chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.

Insurance Coverage and Clinical Testing

Commercial Insurance Plans

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 protects individuals from having insurance premiums increased based on their genetic information source: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).

Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare offers limited coverage to genetic testing, specifically for individuals already diagnosed with cancer, while Medicaid covers BRCA genetic counseling and testing for individuals with a known family mutation or history of cancer source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

At-Home Cancer Genetic Testing

The 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk test is an FDA-approved genetic health risk report that provides insights into certain genetic disorders, including breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. It's priced at $199 source: 23andMe.

In Conclusion

Genetic testing services are proving to be revolutionary in their application for cancer risk estimation and the subsequent precautionary steps taken. But with an average cost of $249-$6040 and additional costs for genetic counseling, affordability is a concern. Even as we explore home tests as a budget-friendly alternative, it is essential to take note that FDA-approved home tests for cancer are very limited. Hence, they should only be performed under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Regardless of these costs and limitations, genetic testing remains a powerful tool in preventative health care.

Sophie Wei

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.