For some families, cancer seems to be inherited or passed down from one generation to the next. There may be several relatives that have been diagnosed with the same type of cancer, perhaps at an early age. For some families, there may be a hereditary factor, known as a gene, that is responsible for the cases of cancer.
Several genes have been discovered that for some families explain why cancer appears to run in the family. Individuals who carry a change, or mutation, in a hereditary cancer gene are at an increased risk to develop cancer or a second cancer. Over the past few years, genetic testing for these genes has become available.
A genetic counselor is a trained health professional who specializes in genetics and the issues that often surround inherited conditions. Genetic counseling for cancer is available for a variety of inherited cancer syndromes. Currently, the most common inherited syndromes involve breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer. Genetic counselors often work closely with patients in Breast Cancer and Colon Cancer treatment programs.
Taking a careful look at your family history can provide clues as to whether the cancer in your family may be due to an inherited gene mutation. Meeting with a genetic counselor can help you determine if certain risk factors, like family history of cancer, put you at an increased risk for the disease.
Meeting with a genetic counselor can be helpful if:
Genetic counseling is a service provided through the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
For more information about genetic counseling for hereditary cancer or to make an appointment, call 410-328-2294 or 410-328-7855.