Page 1. ASCO recommendations for testing

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has published guidelines on when to recommend genetic testing for hereditary cancer predisposition.

ASCO recommends testing only when:
  • The individual's family health history (or other medical history) suggests a genetic component (see, genetic red flags)
  • The genetic test can be clearly interpreted
  • The results will do the patient some good, i.e., the test will aid in diagnosis or influence patient care or the care of the patient's family members (e.g., through screening and/or risk-reducing interventions).
These recommendations may be at odds with your patient's wishes. With the marketing efforts of direct-to-consumer (DTC) gene testing companies, patients are increasingly aware of their options to obtain gene tests commercially, though they don't always have the necessary skills to interpret the information they obtain.

An empowered and engaged patient is a good thing. Use the opportunity to educate your patient on the potential benefits, risks, and limitations, of genetic testing. You'll learn more about this in Lesson 5 and Lesson 6. It's better to facilitate testing by a reliable company and provide proper follow-up than to allow your patient to feel as if he or she is "in it alone." Ultimately, the decision to obtain a genetic test is your patient's to make.

This being said, you'll now learn about the three scenarios for genetic testing that typically arise and ASCO recommendations relating to these scenarios.


Robinson, M.E., Storm, C.D., Weitzel, J., Wollins, D.S., & Offit, K. (2010). American Society of Clinical Oncology Policy Statement Update: Genetic and Genomic Testing for Cancer Susceptibility. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Retrieved July 23, 2010 from

Photo Credit
Focus on genetics by Guy Tear, Wellcome Images

Dianne Rees,
Jul 28, 2010, 10:27 AM