For some families, cancer seems to be inherited or passed down from one generation to the next. There may be several relatives that have been diagnosed with the same type of cancer, perhaps at an early age. For some families, there may be a hereditary factor, known as a gene, that is responsible for the cases of cancer.

Several genes have been discovered that for some families explain why cancer appears to run in the family. Individuals who carry a change, or mutation, in a hereditary cancer gene are at an increased risk to develop cancer or a second cancer. Over the past few years, genetic testing for these genes has become available.

A genetic counselor is a trained health professional who specializes in genetics and the issues that often surround inherited conditions. Genetic counseling for cancer is available for a variety of inherited cancer syndromes. Currently, the most common inherited syndromes involve breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer. Genetic counselors often work closely with patients in Breast Cancer and Colon Cancer treatment programs.

Taking a careful look at your family history can provide clues as to whether the cancer in your family may be due to an inherited gene mutation. Meeting with a genetic counselor can help you determine if certain risk factors, like family history of cancer, put you at an increased risk for the disease.

Learn more about Understanding and Exploring Your Family History of Cancer.

Meeting with a genetic counselor can be helpful if:

  • You are concerned that your personal history of cancer may be linked to other cases of cancer in your family
  • You are concerned about your family's history of cancer
  • You are interested in learning about what the family history of cancer could mean for other family members
  • You are interested in learning more about your risk for developing certain types of cancer and ways to medically manage these risks

Contact UMGCCC's Genetic Counselor

Tyler Stokes, MGC, CGC
Certified Genetic Counselor