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Hereditary Cancer & Genetics

Learn about genes and cancer, signs of hereditary cancer, genetic counseling, types of genetic tests and what results mean for you and your family.

What is hereditary cancer?

Certain diseases, like cancer, can run in families. Cancer can have many causes, but when there are alot of cases of cancers in a family, it could be a sign of "hereditary cancer." 

Hereditary cancers are caused by a gene change, or "mutation" that is present from birth. In most cases, the person with the mutation inherited it from their mother or their father. People with an "inherited gene mutation" have a 50% chance of passing the mutation to each of their children.

There are several different gene mutations that have been associated with increased risk for cancer. Each mutation is different and may be linked with certain risks for specific cancers. You can learn more about the different gene mutations and their associated cancer risks here

There are blood and saliva tests that can look for inherited gene mutations. There are several different laboratories that offer genetic testing for cancer risk. You can see a list of the labs and tests here. Each lab's test may differ in several ways:

  • which genes they test for 
  • cost of testing
  • name of their test
  • how they work with insurance companies
  • how they report test results

There are specially trained genetics expert that can provide you with up-to-date information about genetic testing. Cancer is a common disease, so most families will have some members who have had cancer but that does not mean the cancer in that family is hereditary. Contacting a genetics expert is the best way to learn if the cancer in your family is hereditary and to start the genetic testing process. 

Updated 3/16/17

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