Free/Public Testing Options in BC

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)
Website: www.bccancer.bc.ca/our-services/hereditary-cancer
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 Routes 

Referrals are generally made through family physicians, however self-referral is also possible.

  • Self-referrals are accepted if a relative has shared details (e.g. letter, report, family reference number) about their hereditary cancer gene mutation.
  • Self-referral may also be an option if you are concerned about cancer in your family and do not currently have a family doctor or nurse practitioner. People of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage will receive consideration for self-referral.
Access Process
  1. Ask your family physician to make a referral to the Hereditary Cancer Program (HCP) or contact HCP directly to self-refer.
    • Include any information you have about family history of cancer and/or hereditary cancer genetic testing done for relatives
  2. next steps may include:
    • Booking a genetic counselling appointment for you
    • Booking a telephone appointment with you to get some more information
    • Sending you a family history form to complete
    • Sending you a letter that confirms you are on a waiting list to book a genetic counselling appointment
    • Sending a letter to inform you and your doctor that no appointment is needed
  3. If you have a genetic counselling appointment and genetic testing via the Hereditary Cancer Program, another appointment will be booked to discuss your genetic test results.
  4. Referral to the Hereditary Cancer Program High-Risk Screening Clinic is offered to women who receive positive genetic test results
  5. A related consultation letter will be sent to your (referring) physician, and you will receive a copy of that letter.
  6. Your genetic counsellor will provide suggestions about sharing information with your family members.