Genetic Services for Cancer Diagnosis: When, Where, How
If cancer runs in your family, when do you need genetic services?
There are many features that can be present in a family that would indicate a referral
is needed for genetic services. The following is a general (partial) checklist of
characteristics that may indicate an increased risk of familial cancer or a heritable
cancer syndrome. The symptoms of genetic diseases may resemble other conditions or
medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis and a complete list of
___ A family history of multiple cases of the same or related types of cancer
___ One or more relatives with rare cancers
___ Cancers occurring at an earlier age of onset than usual (for instance, colorectal
under the age of 50 years) in at least one family member
___ Bilateral cancers (two cancers that develop independently in a paired organ, for
example, both kidneys or both breasts)
___ One or more family members with two primary cancers (two original tumors that
develop in different sites)
___ Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish background
Where to find genetic services
Genetic services are usually available in large hospitals or medical centers. The
local phone book or health care provider directory may help you identify a genetic
service provider in your area. Consult your doctor for more information.
The National Cancer Institute has a website available to search for cancer genetic
professionals by geographic area. This Cancer Genetics Services Directory is a directory of individuals who provide services related to cancer genetics (cancer
risk assessment, genetic counseling, genetic susceptibility testing, and others).
How genetic services can help
Genetic services can provide the following:
Information about the significance of your family history in terms of your risk of
developing cancer and the chance that you have a cancer genetic syndrome.
A diagnosis of a cancer genetic syndrome by physical examination and/or genetic laboratory
Details about the availability of genetic testing for cancer risk and the pros and
cons of such testing.
Information about how or why a cancer genetic syndrome occurred (in most cases).
Details about the chance for the cancer genetic syndrome to reoccur in the family
and individual relatives’ chance of having and passing on a mutation in a cancer susceptibility
Recommendations for the management and treatment of the cancer genetic syndrome.
Support groups for the cancer genetic syndrome.
Connections to other families who have a similar, or the same, disorder.