Genetic testing and counseling is an important part of cancer care. Those patients who are diagnosed with breast, ovarian, colon, and/or other specific cancers before the age of 50, or have a strong family history of those cancers, are advised to receive personalized information and counseling for hereditary cancer syndromes.
Some families have a gene mutation that can be passed on from parent to child, causing increased risk for particular cancers. At Mercyhealth, we provide counseling and assistance with testing for hereditary breast/ovarian cancer syndrome and hereditary colon cancer.
Most patients tested will not have the gene mutation. Less than 10% of patients tested are found to have the gene mutation that increases the risk of cancer. Patients who have the gene mutation are offered treatment options that significantly decrease their risk of cancer.
Family members may also undergo testing. If there is a gene mutation in the family, each person has a 50% chance of inheriting it. Genetic testing is recommended when certain risk factors or “red flags” are present. These include:
- Diagnosed breast, colon, intestinal, or uterine cancer before the age of 50, or ovarian cancer at any age.
- Three successive generations of a combination of these cancers in a family, with one person diagnosed before age 50.
- Genetic testing can be a valuable tool for decreasing the risk of cancer in families with these gene mutations, and for decreasing anxiety in individuals without the gene mutation.
If you or your family have any of the red flags for risk of having hereditary colon cancer syndrome, or hereditary breast/ovarian cancer syndrome, talk to your doctor about your concern and for referral.