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Hereditary Cancer

Learning About Genetic Cancer, Counseling and Testing

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Updated June 04, 2005

Hereditary cancer is a cancer that has developed as a result of a gene mutation passed down from a parent to a child. Inheriting a gene mutation does not necessarily mean that person will develop cancer, but increases their risk factor.

Research and studies have found that certain gene mutations increase the chances of a person to develop certain kinds of cancers, depending on family history. Remember, cancer is not inherited, only the gene that increases the risk factor of developing it.

What cancers are hereditary?

The most common hereditary cancers are:

  • Breast Cancer

  • Ovarian Cancer

  • Prostate Cancer

  • Colorectal Cancer


How do I know if I have a genetic mutation?

Genetic counseling is available. Genetic counselors discuss your family history in depth and determine your risk factor. Depending on your cancer family history, the counselor can recommend genetic testing.

It is recommended that if you have several family members who have had the same cancer, such as breast cancer, to seek genetic counseling.

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing is the use of laboratory tests to get a more accurate risk of developing a hereditary cancer. Tests depend on the cancer being investigated.

Genetic testing in never required. Many questions are answered through genetic counseling. It is a personal decision between you and your physician.

Keep in mind that genetic testing can help you make more informed medical decisions about your healthcare, depending on the findings of the test.
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