Having one or more close relatives with cancer may increase a patient’s risk of developing certain kinds of cancers. In some cases, laboratory tests can identify a change in a gene that increases a person’s chance of cancer in their lifetime.
People at increased risk of developing cancer can take certain precautions, including frequent screenings that allow for early detection and treatment should cancer develop. In some instances, preventive treatment may be recommended. However, having a change in a gene that increases your chance of developing certain types of cancer does not mean that you will develop the disease.
What is Cancer Genetic Counseling & Testing?
Many patients undergoing cancer evaluation or treatment are aware of or discover that certain kinds of cancer “run in the family.” Genetic counseling involves evaluating family history and assessing potential genetic factors that contribute to someone’s risk for cancer. It can be used to help identify at-risk relatives and to consider options for family planning.
Genetic counseling may help provide more accurate risk assessments and help you decide if genetic testing is right for you. Patients going through this process are informed of the benefits, risks, and limitations of genetic testing.
Who Should Consider Genetic Testing for Cancer?
Genetic testing is appropriate for anyone with a history of the following types of cancer:
- Those diagnosed before the age of 50 and/or have a close male relative with breast cancer
- Ovarian/fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Uterine cancer diagnosed before the age of 50
- Pancreatic cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
- Prostate cancer with high-risk features, a PSA level of >20ng/mL, and/or a Gleason pattern 5
- Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) diagnosed under age 50
- Rare cancers, including sarcomas and renal cancer at any age
- Several different types of cancer occur in the same person
- Cancer in both organs in a set of paired organs, such as both kidneys or both breasts, regardless of age
Additional scenarios where genetic testing may be recommended:
- Individuals with any blood relative with a known mutation in a cancer susceptibility gene
- Individuals with a mutation identified on tumor genomic testing that has clinical implications if also identified in the DNA they were born with (germline)
- Multiple colorectal, stomach, or small intestinal polyps
- Tumor of the adrenal gland or a neuroendocrine tumor at any age
- Medullary carcinoma of the thyroid
- Individuals with newly diagnosed aplastic anemia or hypocellular myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
- Having central nervous system tumors
- Having close relatives with breast cancer before the age of 50 and/or ovarian or pancreatic cancer at any age
- Three or more relatives with any Lynch syndrome-associated cancer (colorectal cancer, cancer of the endometrium, small bowel, ureter, or renal pelvis)
- Have one or more grandparents of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, which is associated with up to a 1 in 40 chance of harboring a founder mutation in the BRCA1/2 genes. Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene pose an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer, melanoma, and prostate cancer.
- Belonging to a racial or ethnic group known to have an increased risk of having an inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome
- The presence of congenital disabilities that are known to be associated with inherited cancer syndromes, such as certain noncancerous (benign) skin growths and skeletal abnormalities
- Previous negative testing, as you may be eligible for new genetic testing options that are more sensitive and effective
Services We Offer
At NewYork-Presbyterian, patients and their families receive genetic counseling, cancer risk assessment, and appropriate genetic testing using a sample of the patient’s blood or saliva. These tests help identify hereditary cancer syndromes and other cancer susceptibility genes. For individuals with a history of cancer, these test results may be used as a guide for medical decisions such as surgery, treatment, and chemotherapy.
Specific tests include:
- Familial mutation testing
- Gene panel tests that analyze multiple genes at once for cancer-associated mutations
- Whole Genome Transcriptome Sequencing (WGTS) will compare the genetic information you were born with to the genetic profile of the tumor tissue. The test predicts tumor behavior and determines the likelihood of response or resistance to targeted agents or other cancer therapy.
Our Approach to Care
At NewYork-Presbyterian, our world-renowned clinical experts provide leading-edge diagnosis and treatment to patients with every type of cancer. Our multidisciplinary approach ensures that the best specialists in various disciplines work together to provide optimal and individualized care. If your family or personal history indicates an increased risk for cancer, referrals to support organizations, social work, or other healthcare providers can also be provided.
Contact us to Learn More About Genetic Counseling for Cancer
NewYork-Presbyterian’s cancer genetic counseling program provides accurate cancer risk information and genetic counseling to patients with a personal or family history of cancer. Patients undergoing genetic counseling and testing are afforded the opportunity for close collaboration, medical follow-up, and psychological support through our cancer programs. Call for an appointment at one of our convenient NewYork-Presbyterian locations in New York City or Westchester.