Genetic counselling and testing
Your doctor may say you have a strong family history of cancer, comment that your cancer may be genetic and/or refer you to a genetic counsellor for testing of inherited cancer genes.
You leave the rooms bewildered and uncertain as to what this means for you. Context may help. The cause of most cancers is sporadic (interplay of environmental and genetic factors). For 5-10% of individuals, the underlying cancer diagnosis or risk is due to an inherited genetic predisposition. Our genes code information needed by our bodies to make substances that make us look and function as we do. Some genes’ function, such as BRCA genes, is to prevent tumours developing.
For people born with an error (mutation) in one of these genes, their lifetime cancer risk is greatly increased (four to six times expected) due to reduced protection. Knowing if you have a hereditary risk for cancer helps you access intensive and timely screening and/or preventative options to ensure early detection, optimal management and/or prevention. For example, reducing breast cancer risk by 95%.
Genetic counselling for hereditary cancer risk testing helps make sense of genetics role in cancer, the risk to you and your family and access to ultimate support and care.
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