Why is a genetic evaluation important to the cancer survivor?
It’s important for you
- Cancer survivors are at risk for second cancers
All people who have survived cancer have some risk that it will happen again. However, survivors who have a family history of cancer or who had cancer at a young age (under 50) may have a greatly increased risk of developing a second cancer. While most cancers occur due to a combination of lifestyle/environmental exposures and multiple genetic factors, about 10% are caused by an inherited predisposition (i.e., a single mutated gene passed through the family). If you find out you have a hereditary predisposition to breast cancer, you will know that you are at greater risk for a second breast cancer. Our genetic specialists can help you and your physicians take steps to deal with this risk.
- Cancer survivors may be at risk for other types of cancers
Specific gene mutations can sometimes cause other types of cancer too. For example, mutations in the BRCA genes lead to a greatly increased risk of developing breast AND ovarian cancer (along with a smaller risk of certain other cancers). Gene mutations that lead to colon cancer may also cause uterine cancer. Learning whether a genetic susceptibility is contributing to a personal and/or family history of cancer can empower a cancer survivor to take a more proactive approach to their healthcare by screening for cancers they may not have known they were at risk for.
It’s important for your family
- Find out who else in your family may be at risk
If a genetic test indicates that your cancer was caused by a gene mutation, it is likely that there are others in your family that also have this mutation. They may have a risk for cancer they don’t even know about. Knowledge is power! Identifying the risk means they can do something about it. Give your loved ones the gift of awareness!
NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Center for Medical Genetics helps people who are concerned about their hereditary cancer risk by providing risk assessment, making cancer screening recommendations, outlining prevention strategies, facilitating genetic testing, and making referrals for follow-up care. You can do an initial risk assessment for hereditary cancer with our online MyGenerations software.