The Hereditary Cancer Program

At UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

About 10% of all cancers are hereditary. Hereditary cancers are due to genetic changes (called mutations) that are passed down in a family. People and their families who have a hereditary cancer condition may have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer.

The Hereditary Cancer Program has a team of specially trained genetic counselors that offer cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling for many different types of cancer and for known cancer genetic conditions.

Who should see a genetic counselor?

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

  • Cancer at a young age. Such as 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 or multiple family members who have had colon cancer.
  • 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.

The Hereditary Cancer Program sees patients with a personal or family history many different types of cancer including:

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

We also provide genetic counseling and testing for many known cancer genetic conditions including:

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

What to expect from an appointment

During your appointment, a genetic counselor will review your personal and family medical history. Based on that information, you might discuss the chance that the cancer in the family is due to a genetic condition. In some cases, genetic testing may be considered to provide more information. The genetic counselor will discuss with you the benefits and limitations of genetic testing, and discuss whether genetic testing is right for you and your family. The genetic counselor will also explain what your results mean for other members of your family.

Through genetic counseling, we can assist you and your family in making informed decisions about your cancer screening and risk-reducing options. Recommendations for cancer screening and risk management will also be provided for you and family members. This may include increased surveillance, surgical reduction, and/or chemoprevention.

Preparing for your appointment

In order to get the most out of your genetic counseling appointment, it is important to know your family history. Specifically, it is helpful to know who in your family has been diagnosed with cancer, what type of cancer they had, and at what age they were diagnosed.

Care Team