Genetic Cancer Risk Evaluation

What is the likelihood that you will get cancer? As more and more people are live longer, cancer is becoming a more common disease. In fact, most people have at least a few members in their family who have had cancer.

While some people may be at risk for particular types of cancer because their families share certain risk factors, such as smoking or obesity, which can run in families and influence the risk of cancer, others may have a higher cancer risk because they carry an abnormal gene that is passed along from one generation to another. Inheriting a genetic mutation responsible for cancer is generally found in only 5 to 10 percent of cancer patients, but if such a mutation is detected it can be very helpful to family members as well as existing patients.

Why Genetic Testing for Cancer?
Genetic testing may help determine whether a family has an inherited gene mutation as well as screen existing cancer patients for being at risk for developing a second type of cancer.

Every person is at risk for cancer, but each person’s risk level depends upon both their family history, as well as on their lifestyle. Many of these factors may play a role: genetics, gender, age, family history, hormone exposure and others. An important element of risk assessment will estimate the change that a gene mutation is responsible for causing the cancers in an individual’s family.

Is Genetic Cancer Testing Right for You?
Identifying whether you have an abnormal gene could help predict what other cancers you might be at risk for, such as ovarian cancer. Knowing this information allows your health care providers to recommend strategies to prevent or detect those cancers at an earlier stage. It can also help you counsel your relatives about their risks of developing cancer.

  • Candidates who might be most appropriate for genetic testing may have the following traits:

  • A history of many family members who have been diagnosed with cancer, especially breast and ovarian cancer. This includes several generations, either on the mother’s or father’s side.

  • Having family members who have been diagnosed with cancer before the age of 50.

  • Having family members who been diagnosed with multiple cancers, such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

  • Male breast cancers.

Cancer risk assessments generally will help people better understand whether they are a potential risk for developing cancer. Those taking the assessment may or may not have a history of cancer in their families. Regardless of their family background, a cancer risk evaluation can better prepare a potential patient to take active steps which might reduce their risk, prevent cancer or detect cancer early, improving their chances of positive cancer treatment.

Genetic Testing for Cancer
Whether you and your family have been touched by cancer or you are interested in reducing your risk for developing cancer, Oncology Associates offer genetic risk evaluation.

Genetic testing, or cancer risk assessment, is accomplished through a blood test and involves quite a bit of detailed analysis. Once the blood sample is sent for testing, it can take a few weeks or so to receive the results.

Genetic cancer evaluations may be appropriate for people with a personal or a family history of cancer. The types of cancers evaluated through this testing may include cancers such as:

  • Hereditary breast cancer.

  • Hereditary ovarian cancer

  • Hereditary colon cancer.

Genetic Testing for Breast and Ovarian Cancer
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes known to dramatically increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Each year over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. But only 5-10% of those breast cancers are caused by an inherited genetic mutation. The same gene can put women at a higher risk of ovarian cancer as well. Genetic counseling for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations can tell a woman whether she is at increased risk for these cancers. The test does not guarantee who will, or will not, get breast cancer or ovarian cancer

While it’s important for every woman to understand her individual risk, genetic testing may not be the right option for everyone. If a patient has been diagnosed with breast cancer, understanding the patient’s genetic status may alter their particular cancer treatment plan.

Hereditary Colon Cancer
The most commonly inherited colon cancer syndrome is Hereditary Non-polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC). Individuals with this syndrome have an increased risk of colon and rectal cancer. The majority of these cancers being diagnosed before the age of 50. Using various criteria, physicians or genetics counselors can determine whether HNPCC is likely based on an individual’s personal and family history.

Individuals known to carry an HNPCC gene mutation may begin screening for colorectal cancer at an earlier age, such as in their 20’s. They may also begin to start taking steps that will prevent colon cancer from occurring. Those tested to have HNPCC are likely to have relatives, such as their parents, siblings or children, who have a 50% chance of having this mutation as well. These family members may wish to be tested, as well, or even begin screening for particular cancers much earlier.

If you are interested in learning more about having a genetic risk evaluation, please contact us.

Learn More About Cancer
Interested in learning more about cancer? Visit our Cancer Education Videos page.