Sometimes a diagnosis of cancer may be a mystery… where did it come from? How did this happen to me? And, sometimes it’s not a mystery at all. Your mother, grandmother, uncle or other family members may hold a key. Many people don’t realize that some genetic traits may be passed down from generation to generation… genetic traits that control the possibility of developing certain cancers.
Genetic Testing identifies who has or does not have an inherited susceptibility to cancer. There are other genes and hereditary cancers in addition to the types described. Why should you consider genetic testing? The answer is quite simple: it may save your life.
If a genetic counselor determines that you have a higher risk of developing cancer, you may want to consider options to reduce or eliminate the risk of specific cancers. Some of these options include:
If you are suspicious about your family’s cancer history, talk it over with your doctor. Genetic testing just may be the key to your family’s future.
Cancers such as breast, ovarian and colon may be attributed to hereditary factors. Genetic testing may unlock the mystery, actually providing necessary information for your family’s health care. You don’t actually inherit cancer, but rather you might inherit a higher risk of developing cancer.
Everyone gets two copies of every gene… one from our mother and one from our father. We inherit all of our different traits from our parents through a genetic blueprint. And, we know that two specific genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 play an important role in some breast and ovarian cancers. If either of our parents carries a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, we may carry it, too. If changes occur in these genes, they are not working properly and cancer may develop.
When it comes to endometrial, colon and rectal (colorectal) cancers, another hereditary condition may be discovered. Hereditary nonpoloyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is a condition in which a mutated MLH1, MSH2 or MSH6 gene allows formation of small growths of tissues called polyps. Although usually benign (noncancerous), in those people with HNPCC, they can quickly become cancerous.