Family history of cancer
If you are concerned about your family history of cancer please contact us.
Initially you will be sent a family history questionnaire which will be analysed by a doctor. You will then have a one hour consultation during which your personal risk of cancer, genetic testing if appropriate and cancer screening will be discussed. If genetic testing is appropriate then the benefits and limitations of this will be explained. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions which may be concerning you.
For individuals with an increased risk of cancer, screening can often be beneficial in detecting cancer at an earlier stage. Depending on the specific risk, different cancer screening tests can be recommended and risk-reducing strategies considered.
Women with an increased risk of hereditary breast cancer may have one or more of the following factors:
- one close relative (mother or sister) diagnosed with breast cancer before 40 years old
- two relatives (including either mother or a sister) diagnosed with breast cancer
- one close relative diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer
- one relative diagnosed with male breast cancer
- one relative diagnosed with ovarian cancer
- Three relatives with breast cancer at any age
- A relative with breast/ovarian or prostate cancer
This is actually a common misconception. Not having a hereditary gene which predisposes you to a certain type of cancer does not mean you cannot develop that cancer. Many cancers are due to what we call sporadic gene mutations and are not caused by an inherited gene. Lifestyle factors can play an important role in sporadic cancer (for example exposure to the sun, smoking etc).
No, just because one or more members in a family carry gene mutations, it does not mean that all members of the family will carry that gene.
Genetic counselling involves taking a detailed family and medical history, and providing a personalised genetic cancer risk assessment. This risk assessment includes: your personal cancer risk and the risk the cancer in your family is inherited. If genetic cancer testing is available the doctor will explain its benefits and limitations. Cancer screening and risk reducing options may also be recommended.
Individuals concerned about their cancer risk due to a personal or family history of cancer will be sent a family history questionnaire and a personalised risk assessment will be performed. A genetic counselling appointment will then be arranged, and lasts around one hour.
Following this genetic counselling consultation, genetic cancer testing may be available. If you decide to have genetic testing an appointment will be made for a blood sample to be taken. Depending on the genetic cancer test requested, results are usually available in 3-6 weeks. At this time another telephone or face to face appointment will be made with the doctor to discuss your results and options.
Although only a small percentage of cancers are hereditary, a family history of cancer can cause concern. Approximately; 5% of bowel cancer, 5-9% of prostate cancer, 5-10% of breast cancer and 20% of ovarian cancers are inherited. In some families; womb cancer, skin cancer, renal (kidney) and other cancers may also be inherited.