For patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer, and have a family history of cancer, genetic counseling may help identify you as a specific "cancer gene" carrier. In some cases genetic counseling may provide you with information regarding your chance of developing other types of cancer.
Genetic counseling will help your family members understand their risk of developing cancer, and will teach them not only how to reduce risks, but also identify surveillance strategies. If you are concerned about your family’s pattern of disease, cancer you’ve had in the past, or other cancer risk factors, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether to have genetic testing. Community Care Physicians, P.C. offers genetic testing and counseling at multiple locations.
Genetic testing is a personal decision. If you have any of the following, you might consider genetic testing for yourself:
- Several first-degree relatives (mother, father, sisters, brothers, children) with cancer, especially if they’ve had the same type of cancer
- A family history of cancers that are sometimes linked to a single gene mutation, such as breast and ovarian cancer
- Family members who had cancer at a younger age than normal for that type of cancer
- Close relatives with rare cancers that are linked to inherited cancer syndromes
- A physical finding that is linked to an inherited cancer (such as having many colon polyps)
- A known genetic mutation in one or more family members who have already had genetic testing
The Gail Model
There is a formula available called the Gail model that helps put a number value on a woman's breast cancer risk. One of the elements in the calculation has to do with the number of first degree relatives who have had breast cancer. First degree relatives would be mothers, sisters and daughters. This number is then entered into the formula along with other parameters and the program gives a percentage number of the risk.
Your Family History
If there appears to be a number of relatives with breast cancer and they are particularly young or if the patient herself is young (under fifty) we may be dealing with specific mutations known as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins, which help repair damaged DNA. These proteins help ensure the stability of the genetic material of cells. When either of these genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2, are mutated, cancer may develop.
Specific inherited mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 tend to increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers. About 12% of women of the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives. However, according to the most recent estimates, 65% of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and about 45% of women who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 70.
Many people decide to learn whether or not they have an abnormal gene that is linked to higher breast cancer risk. A genetic test involves giving a blood sample that can be analyzed to pick up any abnormalities in these genes. Community Care Physicians has genetic counselors available to you to review the benefits and risks of genetic testing and to answer any questions you may have.