The Cancer Genetics Program at Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Vernon Cancer Center was created for individuals and families who are concerned about their cancer risks due to a personal or family history of cancer.
Some of the services we offer include:
- Comprehensive risk assessment of a patient’s medical and family history
- Genetic testing for inherited cancer syndromes if appropriate
- Ways to manage and lower cancer risks based on genetic test results and/or family history analysis
The majority of cancer cases are thought to be sporadic and due to a combination of environmental exposures, aging and unknown factors. Family history, however, is important when determining increased risk for certain health conditions.
About five to ten percent of cases of cancer are hereditary. A hereditary cancer means that there is an altered gene being passed down in a family that increases a person’s chance of developing certain types of cancer.
Several genes have been discovered that are associated with inherited cancer syndromes, such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and inherited colorectal cancer syndromes.
Some features seen in families who have inherited cancers include:
- Younger ages of onset (often less than 50)
- Multiple generations in the family affected with the same cancer or related types of cancer, such as breast, ovarian, colon or uterine cancers
- An individual with multiple primary cancers
- Rare cancers in the family, such as male breast cancer
Importance of Risk Assessment and Testing
Finding an altered gene in the family allows your physician to understand if you have increased risk for certain cancers. Using this information, we can help tailor a screening and prevention program that would detect cancer at an early stage or prevent or lower the risk of cancer.
Also, if you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, finding an altered gene may affect some of your treatment decisions. It also has important implications for your family members.