Cancer is a common disease, and in most cases it occurs sporadically, or by chance; however, about 5% to 10% of cancers develop because a person has inherited a change in a gene (also called a mutation) that puts him or her at higher risk to develop a cancer. Knowing if you or your family members are at risk for hereditary cancers can allow you to plan strategies to prevent cancer, catch it earlier, or treat it more aggressively.
The cancers known to have genetic risks are:
- Adrenal cancer (adrenocortical carcinoma)
- Breast cancer
- Cancer of the uterus
- Childhood cancers
- Familial colon cancer
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia types 1 & 2
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Pheochromocytoma / paraganglioma
- Prostate cancer
- Thyroid cancer
Some common reasons to consider evaluation by a genetic counselor include:
- Diagnosis of cancer at an earlier age than average (less than age 50 for common cancers like colon or breast cancer).
- More than one relative with the same or related cancers in the family.
- Individuals with more than one primary cancer.
- Individuals with rare or unusual cancers.