Genetics and Cancer
PiedmontΓÇÖs Clinical Genetics Department, and its Family Cancer Risk Assessment program, can help you and your family members learn about possible health risks.
Genetics is a branch of medicine that looks at hereditary and genetic factors that can play a role in causing a disease such as cancer. Even though all cancers develop because of mutations in genes, most are not part of a hereditary cancer syndrome.
By working with the Family Cancer Risk Assessment team, you can gain an accurate cancer risk assessment. In addition, your family members can determine if they have an increased risk for developing cancer. Testing does not always give you clear black-and-white answers. Counselors will first help you decide if genetic testing is right for you and your family.
Deciding about Risk Assessment
Certain inherited gene flaws have been linked to higher risk of some cancers. Tests, referred to as predictive gene tests, have been developed that will find some of these cancer-related genes. Gene testing can show if someone is at a higher risk of getting a disease before any symptoms appear. An accurate gene test can tell if a person has or does not have a disease-related gene mutation. It cannot predict whether a person will actually develop cancer. If the flawed gene is present, many other factors can influence the chances that the person will actually develop cancer. This means that many people with the gene mutation may not get cancer at all, and even those who donΓÇÖt have the problematic gene may still be at risk for certain types of cancer.
You might consider genetic testing for yourself if you have any of the following:
- Several first-degree relatives (mother, father, sister, brother) with cancer, especially the same type of cancer
- A family history of cancers that are known to be linked to a single gene mutation (for instance, breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer)
- Family members who developed cancer at a young age
- Close relatives with rare cancers that are linked to hereditary cancer syndromes
- A physical finding that is linked to hereditary cancer (such as many colon polyps)
- A known genetic mutation in the family (from one or more family members who had genetic testing)
- Learning a more accurate estimate of your personal family cancer risk may result in the increased use of early detection tools, deciding on a type of treatment, and possibly getting reassurance that you or your family are not at increased risk for cancer.
Steps for Testing
Once you have a decided that testing is right for you based on what you have learned so far, you will talk with a genetic counselor to get started. Information that is needed by the counselor includes your medical and family histories, and a detailed family tree is prepared. Information is provided on cancer, cancer genetics, risk and other related topics. At this point, you are provided an individualized cancer risk assessment based on this information.
While this testing cannot provide an exact roadmap of your risk for developing cancer, it can give you a more personalized risk profile. Should genetic testing fit your goals and the counselor has discussed the helpfulness of this testing for you, an appointment can be scheduled. Once your blood test is completed and your results are returned to the Genetics Department, a counselor will call you with this information.
At this time a follow up appointment may be made to further discuss the findings of your tests. Whether by phone or in person, results disclosure will involve a discussion about the findings, benefits, limitations and how these test results may impact your medical care.
Contact Us for More Information
To contact Piedmont Clinical Genetics Department, call 404-425-7949.
Piedmont Patient Navigators provide personalized, compassionate care throughout your entire journey and are available to you at no charge. We encourage you to call us with your questions and to learn more about your cancer, and the treatments and services available to you. To contact a Piedmont Patient Navigator, call 1-888-605-2848 or 404-605-2848.
The Piedmont Genetics team can help you and your family members learn about possible health risks and find the answers for which you are searching.