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Everyone is at risk for cancer, but people with personal or family history of certain cancers may be at higher risk than the general population.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) are genes that normally protect people from getting certain cancers. Women who inherit a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have an increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. Men who inherit a mutation are at risk for prostate cancer and breast cancer. Both men and women are also at risk for pancreatic cancer and melanoma. BRCA1/2 mutations are more likely to be present in families with a strong history of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Knowing whether or not a woman has a BRCA1/2 mutation can help her make important decisions which can reduce her risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer in the future.
People interested in finding out if they should talk to a genetic counselor about their risk for hereditary breast or ovarian cancer should visit knowbrca.org.
Genetic counselor Joyce Turner, MSC, CGC, provides an overview of BRCA genes and their relationship to breast and ovarian cancer.
People with Lynch Syndrome, sometimes referred to as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or HNPCC, are much more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Your other blood relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews are also at increased risk of having Lynch Syndrome. Lynch Syndrome is more likely in families where people had colon cancer before age 50, or women had uterine cancer. Knowing whether or not you have Lynch Syndrome can help you make important decisions which can reduce your risk of deeloping cancer in the future.
If you are diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome or a BRCA 1/2 mutation, your parents, children, sisters, and brothers have a 50% (1 in 2) chance of having this condition. A positive genetic testing result warrants a conversation with your healthcare provider or a genetics specialist. There are possible risk-reduction or surveillance options to consider. The BRCA Decision tool visually depicts how certain options may impact breast and ovarian cancer risk.
Genetic tests look at rare inherited mutations which are responsible for some hereditary cancers including breast, ovarian, colorectal and uterine. These tests are often done using a blood sample or cheek swab.
Cancer genetic specialist Cecelia Bellcross, Ph.D., M.S., C.G.C., explains the basic criteria that would warrant a genetic test.
If you have a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, or colon cancer, you may be at higher risk for developing one of those cancers yourself. Genetic counseling can help provide risk assessment services and discuss any potential genetic testing options. Talk to your healthcare provider or a genetics specialist if you are unsure of whether or not you may be at higher risk.
Genetic counseling is a process where someone specially trained in genetics:
Jeri Harashima, MS LCGC, a Genetics Counselor from Intermountain Medical Center Oncology Genetics Clinic explains the genetics of breast cancer in this ABC4 Utah interview.
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