The majority of cancers happen by chance: only 5 percent to 10 percent are hereditary. But, if you have one or more family members affected by cancer, you may wonder if your genetic makeup has increased your risk for the disease.
CHI Saint Joseph Health provides genetic counseling to individuals or families with hereditary concerns. When appropriate, we also coordinate cancer genetic testing, help interpret the results and discuss ways to help prevent cancer or detect it early, when it’s most treatable.
Understanding Your Risk for Hereditary Cancer
We all have many genes that are supposed to protect our bodies from cancer. Hereditary cancer, or cancer that is passed down through the family, is caused by a genetic mutation which stops one of these cancer protection genes from working properly. A person with a mutation in one of these genes has lost some of their natural cancer protection and has a higher chance to develop cancer over their lifetime.
Cancer may be hereditary if there is a known cancer predisposition gene in the family, or if relatives on the same side of the family has:
- Been diagnosed with the same or related types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian cancer, or colon and uterine/endometrial cancer
- Cancer diagnosed under the age of 50
- Been diagnosed with ovarian cancer
- Rare cancers
- Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
A licensed CHI Saint Joseph Health genetic counselor can help you understand your risk for hereditary cancer syndromes by:
- Reviewing your family history of cancer in detail (types of cancer, age of diagnosis, etc.)
- Assessing and explaining your risk for hereditary cancer
- Describing the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing and helping determine if you’re a candidate
- Arranging genetic testing, if appropriate and you decide to proceed
- Walking through genetic test results and explaining what they mean for you and your family
About Genetic Testing
After a thorough discussion with your genetic counselor, you can decide if genetic testing is right for you. Genetic testing may help predict your risk for a particular type of cancer and if you have genes that may pass increased cancer risk to your children. Most insurance companies will cover all or a portion of the cost of testing, though individual plans vary.
Genetic testing is usually done on a small blood sample, but sometimes saliva, cells from inside the cheek or skin cells are used instead. The sample is then sent to a specialized laboratory, which looks for specific inherited changes (mutations) in your genes.
Not all genetic changes are harmful and no genetic test can say whether you will develop cancer for sure. Your genetic counselor will review your results with you in detail so that you understand your cancer risk and the steps you can take to prevent or catch cancer early.
Is A Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment Right For You?
The decision to have genetic counseling and/or testing is an individual one. If you feel you may be at risk for hereditary cancer, contact us at 844-835-GENE (4363) or email our genetic counselors. Also, be sure to review our cancer genetics FAQ.
We offer cancer genetic counseling at several locations throughout Central Kentucky:
A Service of Saint Joseph East
3470 Blazer Parkway, Suite 230
Lexington, KY 40509
165 London Mountain View Drive
London, KY 40741
We also offer consultations by phone and telemedicine consultations.