A lot of conditions run in the family. Maybe your parents, aunts and uncles complain of osteoporosis, while you have friends whose relatives are prone to heart disease or dementia. One disease that’s notorious for having a genetic component is cancer. If you belong to the cancer family, you might consider genetic counseling to learn your cancer risk and how you might prevent getting it.
Which Cancers Are Hereditary?
Not every cancer has a genetic component. Those that do include:
- Breast cancer
- Gynecological cancers—ovarian, uterine and fallopian tube
- Gastrointestinal cancers—colon, rectal, pancreatic and gastric
- Endocrine—thyroid, pituitary and adrenal
Who Should Go for Genetic Counseling?
The purpose of genetic assessment and counseling is to identify people who may have a high risk of developing certain cancers, and help them prevent the disease.
We strongly recommend genetic counseling if any of the following apply to you:
- You’ve been diagnosed with more than one type of cancer
- Several of your family members on one side of the family have had cancer
- You’re of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with breast, ovarian, colon or pancreatic cancer
- You’ve had more than one childhood cancer, such as leukemia or sarcoma
- One of your family members has a known gene mutation like BRCA or cancer predisposition syndrome
- You were diagnosed with cancer at an earlier than usual age for that type of cancer
- You were diagnosed with breast, colorectal or endometrial cancer at age 50 or younger
- You’ve had a rare cancer diagnosis, such as male breast cancer, at any age.
When you arrive for your appointment, our specialists will review your medical history (and your family’s); assess your personal cancer risk; discuss the risks, benefits and limitations of genetic testing; and arrange testing if appropriate. We might also refer you to support groups and research studies.
How You’ll Benefit from Genetic Testing
Genetic counseling and testing might actually improve your health because:
- Testing might identify a cause of cancer
- It could identify children or siblings who are at higher-than-normal risk of developing cancer, and might also benefit from screening
- Testing sometimes finds no increased risk of cancer
- If you are at risk, your counselor will develop an individual cancer screening schedule for you
- Genetic testing can help you decide whether to undergo surgery that could lower your risk
- Test results could indicate a change in your current cancer treatment plan.