The Hereditary Cancer Program

  • About 10% of all cancers are hereditary.
    • They come from genetic changes called mutations
    • People with these changes may have a higher risk for certain types of cancer
    • Because they’re passed down in a family, they are known as hereditary cancer conditions

The Hereditary Cancer Program has a team of specially trained genetic counselors. They offer risk assessment for many types of cancer and known hereditary cancer conditions. This involves learning about your family history and may include genetic testing.

You can take steps toward prevention and early detection by understanding your risks. 

Who should see a genetic counselor?

Many families can benefit from genetic counseling.

Consider talking with your provider about this service if you have a personal or family history of:

  • Cancer at a young age
    • ​This may include breast, colon, or uterine cancer under age 50.
  • Two or more separate cancers
    • For example, a woman diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer. This does not include cancer that has spread to another area of the body.
  • A family history of the same or related types of cancer
    • For example, a woman with uterine cancer who has a parent with colon cancer. Multiple family members who have had colon cancer is another example.
  • A rare or unusual type of cancer
    • For example, a man with breast cancer or a woman with ovarian cancer.
  • Non-cancerous findings that are known to be a part of a genetic condition
    • For example, a person who has had 20 or more colon polyps.

A personal or family history of many different types of cancer may indicate a hereditary cancer condition.

These different cancers may include:

  • Breast
  • Endocrine: thyroid, pituitary, adrenal, parathyroid
  • Gastrointestinal cancers: colon, rectal, pancreatic, or gastric
  • Genitourinary: kidney, prostate
  • Gynecological cancers: Ovarian, fallopian tube, peritoneal, or uterine
  • Sarcoma
  • Skin: melanoma

The Hereditary Cancer Program also offers genetic counseling and testing for many known cancer genetic conditions.

These include:

  • Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome
  • Colon polyp syndromes (familial adenomatous polyposis, MYH-associated polyposis, juvenile polyposis)
  • Cowden syndrome
  • Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM)
  • Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (due to BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations)
  • Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer syndrome (due to CDH1 mutations)
  • Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer syndrome (HLRCC)
  • Hereditary papillary renal cell cancer syndrome
  • Hereditary paraganglioma syndromes
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Lynch syndrome (also known as Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer)
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 and type 2 syndromes (MEN1 and MEN2)
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
  • Von-Hipple-Lindau syndrome (VHL)

What to expect from your visit

A genetic counselor will review your personal and family medical history. We can then talk about the chance that there is a hereditary cancer condition in your family.

In some cases, a genetic test may be used for more information. The genetic counselor will talk with you about its benefits and limits, and whether it’s right for you and your family.

Once the test is done, our counselors will work with you and your family members to discuss how the results impact each person in the family. This will help each family member in making informed choices about their cancer screening and risk-reducing options. These may involve increased surveillance, risk-reducing surgery, and/or chemoprevention.

Getting ready for your genetic counseling appointment

It’s helpful to know your family history before your visit.

This includes:

  • Who in your family has been diagnosed with cancer
  • What type of cancer they had
  • At what age were they diagnosed

Care Team