Using a private company for genetic testing

Breast Cancer Now is sometimes asked by people who are not eligible for NHS genetic testing for breast cancer genes whether it is possible to get the test done privately.

Some private companies provide genetic testing. Some of these companies offer a similar service to the NHS while others offer ‘direct-to-consumer’ genetic tests (genetic susceptibility testing) only, where a sample of your saliva is sent directly to a laboratory to test for genetic factors that might be linked to risk. Some direct-to-consumer’ genetic tests may include a search of the BRCA genes.

If you are considering using a private company for genetic testing, you may wish to check which gene faults are included in the test before making a decision. We also recommend you ensure the service offers advice and support, such as genetic counselling. Some companies may have eligibility criteria you need to meet to be able to have the test done (such as having a family history of breast cancer).

If your private test shows that you have a gene fault that might increase your risk of breast cancer, services may be available to help – ask your GP if you would like to find out about any NHS care available to you.

Breast Cancer Now does not recommend direct-to-consumer genetic tests

  • Breast Cancer Now does not recommend the use of direct to consumer genetic testing because:
    There is not sufficient evidence that direct genetic tests can predict whether someone will develop breast cancer, as they sometimes test for different faults to the NHS.
  • Not all companies offer counselling. This means you might not have a genetics specialist to discuss your decision with before proceeding or to help you understand your results and decide what to do next. Genetic testing can be a difficult and emotional time and having the information and advice to help you make decisions is important. Having access to any counselling you may wish to have is important.
Related information
To find out more about private genetic testing, see the Genetic Alliance UK information centre (see over the counter susceptibility tests leaflet).

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Learn about NHS genetic testing, including eligibility criteria

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