Genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. If you have several family members or multiple generations of relatives who have been diagnosed with cancer, you may benefit from genetic counseling.
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.
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. Where you don't actually inherit cancer, you might inherit a higher risk of developing cancer.
Genetic counseling may be available to our patients and their families, as well as anyone in our community with significant family histories of cancer. For further information or questions, speak with your physician.
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, or 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.
Genetic testing identifies who has or does not have an inherited susceptibility to certain cancers. In addition to the types described, there are other genes and hereditary cancers that testing may identify.
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: