About 1.8 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and, sadly, about 606,520
will eventually die of the disease. Everyone is at risk of developing cancer, but some people are at higher risk than others.
Those who smoke, for example, or who are obese, have a higher risk than others.
Another risk factor is a family history of certain cancers. Family or hereditary cancer accounts for about 5-10% of all cancers. Fortunately, some tests can determine if you are at risk of hereditary cancer.
At the Center for Women's Health in Wichita, Kansas, our expert medical team, led by Sharon Breit, MD, shares what you need to know about hereditary cancers and the importance of screening.
What is hereditary cancer?
Most cancers are caused by gene mutations that happened randomly in the body. These mutations occur in only one or a few cells. With an inherited cancer, a mutation is passed down from one or both parents so that the mutation is part of your DNA and is in almost every cell. It also continues to be passed down to future generations.
Carrying a hereditary mutation does not mean you will develop cancer, but it does mean that your risk is higher than the general population.
Medical research studies have identified mutations that can contribute to your risk of developing certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate cancer.
While cancer, unfortunately, is common, affecting one in three people, there are ways to identify a possible family cancer syndrome. These include:
- Cancers of the same type in multiple people in a family
- Cancer occurring at a younger age than is typical
- A family member with more than one type of cancer
- Cancer occurring in many generations
If you suspect you are at risk of hereditary cancer, talk to one of our medical professionals about hereditary cancer screening.
What is hereditary cancer screening?
There are no risks to cancer screening. There are only benefits. But a positive test for hereditary cancer can affect other members of your family. It's essential to plan and prepare to share information with your family, which may be difficult.
A cancer screening is usually a multi-step process. It often includes a review of your family history and a meeting with a genetic counselor to help you make sense of your results.
Finally, the screening test looks for variants in a single gene or multiple genes in your blood, saliva, or skin cells. Together, you and Dr. Breit decide the best test for you.
The results give you and your family a better understanding of your cancer risk. If we find a mutation, Dr. Breit can design a personal prevention program to help reduce your risk.
If you or a loved one has a family history of cancer and you'd like to know more about hereditary cancer screening, call us at the Center for Women's Health to make an appointment or request an appointment online.