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Did You Inherit a Cancer Risk?

cancer-genes

You may have joked about how you inherited your father’s blue eyes and your mother’s skills in the kitchen, or perhaps your uncle’s sense of humor or your grandfather’s high cholesterol.

But have you ever wondered about inheriting a risk to develop cancer?

Some people are born with a genetic risk to develop cancer. If you had a genetic risk to develop cancer, would you want to know about it?

Q:  How could my risk be determined? It’s in your genes!

We all have thousands of genes that make us who we are, determining how we grow and develop, the way we look, and even protecting us from things like cancers. There may be a difference in the way one of your genes work, called a mutation, that makes you more likely to develop certain kinds of cancers.

The biggest clue in determining if you have a high risk to develop cancer is to look at your family. If you have multiple family members with cancers, you may be at a higher risk than others.

Q:  Why would I want to know about my cancer risk? That’s just scary!

People seek genetic counseling to learn more about their risk of developing cancer for many reasons. Some people have a cancer diagnosis and are trying to make treatment and surgical decisions.

A number of people are trying to understand why they got cancer. Others have a family history of cancer and are trying to learn about their personal risk or the risk for their children.

Q:  How do I find out if I am at risk?

A genetic counselor can help you to understand risks of developing certain kinds of cancers based on your personal and family medical history.

Not everyone needs genetic counseling, but when it is appropriate, it can be used to identify a mutation in a gene. If a mutation is found, it helps us understand what your cancer risks are.

The most likely person to have a mutation is someone who has had cancer themselves. When possible, it is best to start by testing someone with cancer and then using that information to test other family members.

Q:  What would you do if you had a high risk?

Would you worry about cancer? Would you start cancer screening early and learn about prevention options? Would you worry about your kids? Would you inform your family so that they can learn of their risks, too?

It is important to think about what you do with this information. Knowing what your risk is to develop cancer can be helpful and empowering, but it can also be very frightening.

So think about it.

Do you have a family or personal history of cancer? Would you like to learn if it could be genetic? Give us a call at (214) 820-9600 to learn how to set up an appointment.

About the author

Laura Panos
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Laura is a certified genetic counselor who works at Baylor Health Care System. She sees patients who have hereditary conditions or are at risk to develop conditions based on family history and provides them with testing, education, support, and resources.

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Did You Inherit a Cancer Risk?