Carilion Clinic's multidisciplinary medical genetics team offers patients a personalized cancer risk assessment.

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Hereditary cancer develops as a result of a genetic mutation, passed down from a parent to a child. Inheriting a gene mutation does not necessarily mean that a person will develop cancer, but the risk is increased. It is important to identify families with hereditary susceptibility to cancer because they can take steps to reduce their risk or prevent cancer from occurring.

The majority of cancer is sporadic and caused by a variety of factors, including genetic makeup and personal and environmental influences. Only five to 10 percent of cancer is hereditary.

What to Expect During a Genetic Consultation

You will have a personalized cancer risk assessment based on your medical and family information. Once your appointment is scheduled, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire in preparation for your consultation with the genetic counselor. During the consultation we will:

  • Evaluate your personal medical information and three-generation family history
  • Discuss general estimate of your cancer risks
  • Determine the chance that your family may have an inherited susceptibility to cancer
  • Discuss whether genetic testing could be helpful

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing for hereditary cancer is an evolving and complex field. If you are a candidate for genetic testing, a blood or saliva sample can often be obtained on the same day as your consultation visit. Test results take anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on the specific test ordered. Your genetic test results will be reviewed in the context of your medical and family history. You may be offered additional genetic testing or research opportunities.

Cancer Risk Reduction Strategies

A significant part of the cancer genetics risk assessment is to learn whether you may have a higher chance of developing certain types of cancer in your lifetime. Tailored cancer risk reduction strategies will be discussed based on your medical and family histories, and can include:

  • Beginning cancer screening at earlier ages, and with increased frequency
  • Cancer prevention drugs
  • Risk-reducing procedures

Our multidisciplinary team can either manage your high-risk cancer screening program directly or work with your doctors to ensure your specific needs are met. Our goal is to educate you about your options so you can more proactively manage your health.

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