In the province of British Columbia, genetic testing is offered through the provincially-funded Hereditary Cancer Program.
For people who do not qualify for the program or who for other reasons are interested in seeking out alternative testing options, there are also a wide number of commercial genetic testing programs, many of which are available online.
For more information about private testing options and how they compare, please click here.
Public (Provincially-Funded) Testing in BC
Benefits/Drawbacks of provincially-funded genetic testing
- Considered the gold standard for testing, among all currently available testing options
- Testing includes sequencing of the full genome for the family ‘index case’ (an individual identified in the family as being the most likely to carry the gene, for instance, because they have already developed a suspicious cancer)
- Other family members will only be tested for gene mutations identified during the sequencing of the family index case (speedier process)
- Includes genetic counselling as part of the testing process, as well as a direct link to the province’s High Risk Screening Clinic for further medical support
- All files will meet provincial standards and will be guided through the necessary official channels for medical care
- Not all individuals who are interested in receiving testing will qualify under current provincial guidelines
- Wait times to meet with your genetic counsellor to begin the screening process and to receive your results can be lengthy (often 8-12 months)
Hereditary Cancer Program (BC Cancer Agency)
Vancouver: 604-877-6000 local 672198
Abbotsford: 604-851-4710 local 645236
Updated 31 July/2019
Cost of Test: Free for individuals who qualify
Genes Screened For: Includes BRCA1 and BRCA2, but no other information available
Includes Pre-Test Genetic Counselling: Yes
Includes Post-Test Support: Test results will be delivered over the phone by your assigned Genetic Counsellor. If your test is positive, the Genetic Counsellor will outline your options and forward on your file to the Hereditary Cancer Program’s High Risk Screening Clinic at the BC Cancer Agency.
Referral and Access Process
- Ask your family physician to make a referral to the Hereditary Cancer Program (HCP)
- Complete the form on your family history of cancer(s)
- Receive a letter from HCP to confirm that you have been accepted into the program or a letter requesting more information, if you do not meet the criterion for acceptance.
- Self-referral may be possible if accompanied by detailed documented family history or if there is a confirmed BRC1 or BRCA2 carrier in the family (as supplied by another testing program)
- Once accepted HCP will contact you for pre-test counseling. Wait time for contact potentially up 6 months or more (but sometimes less)
- Results are confidential and sent to your family physician
- Testing results will be followed by post-test counseling through HCP
- For individuals with positive results, test results will be forwarded to the provincial High Risk Screening Clinic for risk management.
- Family members of found carriers will be contacted for testing.