Hereditary Cancer

Genetic testing is a powerful tool to gauge a patient’s risk for disease. On the surface, the concept may seem like a no-brainer, right? A little swab of the cheek or a drop of saliva and bam! All the secrets to your body’s genetic problems revealed! Like a road map to predict future defects and diseases such as cancer. For me, I have a personal bias towards genetic testing because it saved my twin sister’s life.

For you.

Every woman is encouraged to learn her risk to develop breast cancer. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer, you could be at risk to develop a second breast cancer or another type of cancer. It is important to be aware of your level of risk because this helps guide recommendations for cancer screening and risk reduction, with the goal to prevent cancer altogether.

A hereditary cancer syndrome is a genetic condition that predisposes someone to develop certain types of cancer. You may be at a higher risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome, and may qualify for genetic testing, if you have a personal or family history of any of the following:

• Breast cancer diagnosed before age 45 years
• Triple negative breast cancer at or before age 60 years (ER-, PR-, HER2-)
• Two or more primary cancers (e.g., breast and colon; breast and thyroid)
• Bilateral breast cancer or two primary breast cancers (not recurrent cancer)
• Three or more diagnoses of breast cancer in close blood relatives (can include yourself)
• Several generations of your family, on the same side of the family, having cancer (e.g., mother, grandmother, great-grandfather)
• Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
• Breast cancer diagnosed in a male

If any of these apply to you or a family member, you are encouraged to meet with a certified genetic counselor or knowledgeable healthcare provider. A genetic counseling appointment involves reviewing your personal and family history to determine which genetic test, if any, is most appropriate. Using the information collected and/or the results of genetic testing, a personalized plan for cancer screening and prevention is established.

Sporadic vs. Hereditary Cancer.

The majority of cancers occur by chance, at older ages, and in people with little or no family history of the disease. These occurrences are called sporadic cancers. Although many people have a family history of cancer, only about 10% of cancer is hereditary, or due to an inherited genetic difference (mutation; variant). People who have these genetic differences have them from the time they are born. Understanding if a history of cancer is due to an inherited genetic difference can help clarify the risk to develop cancer (including a second cancer) and determine the most appropriate cancer surveillance. The goal is to prevent cancer or detect it at its earliest and most treatable stage.

For Loved Ones.

Genetic counseling and testing can also tell you if members of your family may be at elevated risk to develop cancer. Since these genetic differences are typically passed from generation to generation, this means that children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins may also have a genetic difference that increases their risk to develop cancer. Sharing this valuable information with family members can be lifesaving.

Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment.

Learn Look Locate supports the mission of Medneon, which is for all people to undergo a cancer risk assessment. Telehealth appointments are available with the Virtual Care Network if you wish to explore your risk and eligibility for genetic testing.

To schedule a telehealth appointment with a genetic counselor, visit:

“They say knowledge is POWER, and in the world of modern medicine, that has never been more true. Or in the case like mine, help save a life. Genetic testing has become more accessible and accurate thanks to advances in technology. It not only is used to confirm a diagnosis, but also can help predict how a disease will progress. Whether the outcome is positive or negative, it can help you and your family make informed decisions about health care management. Now that you know about genetic testing, will you have the power to save your life or the life of someone you love?”

-Sammie, Stage 4