Hereditary Cancer Testing

Created by Jeanette McCarthy, PhD


Hereditary Cancer Testing is an online course that was developed to teach health care providers how to use genetic testing to identify persons with hereditary cancer risk in order to prevent and manage disease.

Why is hereditary cancer testing important? 

Erica is a 45 year-old patient of yours who was diagnosed with invasive ductal adenocarcinoma of the breast two years ago and successfully treated. Her paternal aunt also had breast cancer and died at 48 years of age. Despite her positive family history, Erica never underwent genetic testing. When she did develop cancer, you assumed there was no point to testing her. Besides, it’s expensive and you had heard that not all testing was covered by insurance. On her next visit to your office Erica asks you about genetic testing. Her sister Jane’s doctor recommended genetic testing for Jane, but suggested that the testing would be more informative if Erica were to get tested first. There are currently over 100 hereditary breast cancer tests on the market. They range in size from just a couple of genes to dozens. Selecting which panel to order can be daunting. Where do you begin?

Enroll for this course now

Hereditary Cancer Testing was designed to educate lay professional audiences with no genetics background about implementing hereditary cancer testing in the clinic. This course is for:

  • Physicians, nurses and other health care providers in family/internal medicine
  • Health care providers in oncology
  • Health care providers in the concierge, functional and lifestyle medicine areas
  • Health IT companies developing tools to manage genetic information
  • Insurance companies who want to understand how to value hereditary cancer tests

Learn how to implement and scale hereditary cancer testing across your practice 

Giving patients the best care possible means knowing about the latest tools and technologies for diagnosing and treating disease and being able to evaluate and use them in practice. Genetic predisposition testing for hereditary cancers can save lives through early detection and personalized disease management.

Taking a cancer family history

Many providers struggle capturing an accurate cancer family history. Learn about what key features to look for, common misconceptions and tools for having your patients collect their own family history.

Who should have cancer genetic testing

Hereditary breast/ovarian cancer and Lynch syndrome (colorectal) are two of the most common, actionable cancer syndromes where excellent genetic tests are available. Learn to recognize patients in your practice who might benefit from genetic testing for hereditary cancers.

Cancer genetic case studies

What are some of the more common scenarios where genetic testing is used? We’ll discuss common cases that you’re likely to encounter in your practice.

Managing patients undergoing genetic testing

What are the best sources of information for managing my patients through the genetic testing process? What is the role of a genetic counselor and how do I find one?

Clinical validity of hereditary cancer tests

Most people assume that larger gene panels are better than smaller ones, but not all genes on large hereditary cancer testing panels are backed by strong evidence of association with disease. Moreover, some genes are not as predictive as others. Learn about the clinical validity of different cancer genes found on popular gene panel tests.

Analytical validity of genetic tests

Next-gen sequencing (NGS) is used by most labs for hereditary cancer gene testing, but NGS doesn’t detect all relevant variants. Learn why it’s important to consider the laboratory analysis method when evaluating genetic tests.

Assessing the pathogenicity of variants

Not all variants in disease genes are pathogenic, or disease-causing. Learn how most labs interpret variants for pathogenicity and why variants of uncertain significance are so undesirable.

Scope and selection of hereditary cancer tests

Dozens of labs offer dozens of hereditary cancer testing products. Why are there so many and what is the difference? How do you select the test that’s right for your patient?

Interpreting genetic test reports

There are some common misinterpretations of genetic test results that can actually harm your patient. Learn to interpret genetic test results correctly and avoid putting your patient at risk.

Selecting a genetic testing lab

Dozens of labs offer genetic testing, so choosing a lab can be a daunting task. Learn what considerations go into selecting a testing laboratory and who are some of the labs currently offering cancer genetic testing.

About the course

Hereditary Cancer Testing consists of the following:

  • An introduction plus ten short didactic videos (total watch time ~1 hour) available to watch on-demand
  • Optional hands-on exercises (~30 min)
  • An active discussion forum
  • A community of like-minded professionals with opportunities for ongoing engagement

Please note: We recommend that students taking the Hereditary Cancer Testing course have a basic understanding of human genetics before enrolling. If you don’t have a background in genetics – or if you want a quick refresser -  we offer two free online courses to bring you up to speed: PM101: Human Genomics (~30 min) and PM102: Genes, Heredity and Disease (~40 min).

Course price: $295 

Enroll now

The information provided through this course is for educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.

All materials are copyrighted. Republication or redistribution of PMA content is prohibited without prior written consent. PMA shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Jeanette McCarthy, PhD
Jeanette McCarthy, PhD
Founder, Precision Medicine Advisors and Adjunct Associate Professor, Duke University

Jeanette McCarthy has been a leading educator in the field of precision medicine for over a decade. She’s designed and delivered dozens of online courses and in-person workshops to healthcare providers, consumers, diagnostic companies, health IT companies, investors and others worldwide.

Dr. McCarthy spent the early part of her career as a molecular epidemiologist at Millennium Pharmaceuticals and in academia, and currently holds adjunct faculty positions at Duke University and the University of California - San Francisco (UCSF). She is the co-author of Precision Medicine: A Guide to Genomics in Clinical Practice, and served as editor-in-chief of Genome, the first magazine dedicated to educating consumers about the promise and challenges of genomic medicine.

Dr. McCarthy is the founder of Precision Medicine Advisors, which brings healthcare organizations, health care providers, diagnostic test developers, health IT companies, investors and others up to speed on the availability, value and limitations of genetic tests on the market and in development.