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Cancer Genetics

Cancer is a common condition but inherited cancers are rare. Only about 5 to 10% of all cancers are inherited. If you have a significant personal or family history of cancer we can sometimes arrange a test to see if one of these genes is present in your family. 

How do I know if I have a significant personal or family history of cancer?

  • Do you have two or more close relatives on the same side of your family with the same or a related cancer?
    Cancers that can sometimes be related include:
    1. Breast and ovarian cancer
    2. Bowel and womb cancer
  • Have you or a close relative had two separate cancer diagnoses (not one cancer that has spread)?
  • Have you or a close relative been diagnosed with cancer at a much younger age than would normally be expected for that cancer type? 

If you have answered 'yes' to any of these questions, please discuss your concerns with your GP or healthcare professional who can decide if you should be referred to us for a fuller assessment. 

What happens if I am referred for cancer risk assessment?

After you are referred to the Cancer Genetics Service it can take many months before you are seen in clinic. This is because we first try to find out about your family history so that our risk assessment is as accurate as possible.

  1. In most cases we will ask you to fill in a questionnaire about your family history information
  2. When this is returned to us we will try to confirm the cancers in your family. This can sometimes take several months
  3. Once we have confirmed as much as possible, your risk will be assessed by a genetics doctor
  4. a) Some patients will be invited to come to clinic to see one of our specialist genetic staff. Some of these patients may be offered additional surveillance (e.g. mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.) and/or genetic testing
    b) Alternatively, some patients will not be at significantly increased risk of developing cancer and will receive a letter from us explaining their level of risk