Counseling is for individuals with cancer or individuals with a
family history of cancer who are concerned about their personal
risk for cancer, risk for a secondary cancer or risk for other
Many of us
have either been affected by cancer personally or have friends
or family members affected by cancer. There are many things
that can put us at an increased risk to develop cancer. However
research shows that up to 5-10% of all cancer has a hereditary
component, which can run in the family. Individuals with or
family member of individuals with a hereditary cancer have
difference cancer risks. Fortunately, there have been many
advances in recent years in the prevention, diagnosis, and
treatment of cancer. Genetic testing is also available in order
to test for some hereditary cancers.
Who is at risk for
points to consider in evaluating your family history for the
possibility of hereditary cancer include:
occurring at a younger age than the average in the general
population. This usually means under age 50.
type of cancer or related cancers in multiple blood
relatives (example: breast and ovarian or colon and
occurring in both organs of a pair (example: both breasts).
one occurrence of cancer in the same person.
two or more generations.
Careful evaluation of your family
history is the most important factor in determining a risk for
In many cases
a young age of onset is more significant than the number of
people with cancer. Enlist the help of family members and try to
get specific information. For example, “female cancer” could
mean cancer of the cervix, uterus, or ovaries. When patterns of
cancer are identified in a family, a hereditary form of cancer
may be suspected.
What is cancer-related
Genes are the
basic units of heredity. We all have approximately 30,000 genes
in each of our cells. Some genes are involved in offers us some
protection against cancer. If these genes have changes
(mutations) in them that do not allow them to work correctly,
this increases a person’s risk for developing cancer. Genetic
testing looks at some of the genes that are known to cause an
increased risk for cancer. The testing can identify individuals
at increased risk for specific types of cancer who will benefit
from increased cancer surveillance. A negative test result does
not mean that a person well never develop cancer, but may
indicate that the cancer risk is no higher than the risk in the
general population. Testing is usually performed on a blood
sample taken from a person’s arm. It is important that
individuals interested in genetic testing carefully evaluate the
benefits and limitations of the test and consider how the test
results will impact their family. A genetic counselor can help
genetic counseling help?
counseling can help assess your cancer risk and determine if you
could benefit from genetic testing. An initial genetic
consultation includes taking a detailed family history,
assessing the risk for hereditary cancer, reviewing basic cancer
genetics, and discussing options for surveillance and testing.
Some people will be relieved to find out that the risk for
cancer is lower than they anticipated. Other people who are at
increased risk for cancer may choose to pursue genetic testing
and feel empowered to make lifestyle and medical management
decisions to lower their cancer risk or increase the chance for
early detection and treatment.
Locate genetics services in New Jersey