Although most cancers occur sporadically, some people may develop cancer due to hereditary changes in cancer predisposition genes. Individuals who want to know if they have an increased likelihood of developing certain cancers or if they inherited a gene that contributed to their own or a family member’s cancer should consult with a genetic counselor for risk assessment, possible genetic testing and risk-reduction information.

Consider genetic counseling if any of the following apply to you:

  • You, or a close family member (i.e. parent, sibling, child, aunt/uncle, grandparent, niece/nephew), have had any of the following cancers diagnosed before age 50:
    • Breast, ovarian, colorectal, or endometrial (uterine)
  • You, or a close family member, have been diagnosed with more than one cancer (in the same person). For example:
    • Breast and ovarian cancer
    • Colorectal (colon or rectal) and endometrial (uterine) cancer
    • Bilateral breast cancer
  • You, or any close family member, have been diagnosed with a rare cancer or have had a rare pre-cancerous finding, such as:
    • Male breast cancer
    • Multiple colorectal polyps
    • More than five precancerous colorectal polyps (adenomas)
    • Medullary thyroid cancer
    • Adrenocortical carcinoma
    • Phaeochromocytoma
    • Paraganglioma
  • Two or more close relatives have been diagnosed with the same type of cancer or two or more relatives have been diagnosed with related cancers. Related cancers include:
    • Breast and ovarian cancer
    • Colorectal and endometrial (uterine) cancer
    • Melanoma and pancreatic cancer
    • Breast and thyroid cancer
    • Multiple cancers in the family including sarcomas, breast cancer, leukemia, and brain cancer.
  • A family member has been diagnosed with a hereditary cancer syndrome or found to have a mutation in a known cancer gene.
  • You are of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry and you or any family member have been diagnosed with breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer at any age.
  • A health care provider has talked with you or a close family member about being at risk for:
    • For individuals identified to be at an increased risk for cancer, this information may be helpful when making medical decisions about managing and/or reducing cancer risk.
    • Speak to your primary care physician if you believe genetic counseling is right for you.
    • Please note that not every insurance policy covers genetic counseling. Check with your provider to determine coverage.