Hereditary Cancer: How does it affect my risk?
Cancer cases are on the rise, in India and worldwide too. According to researchers, the reason behind the increase is a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors. Changes in screening and diagnosis are also major factors for the rise. The rising number also highlights that obesity in adolescents and young adults has increased considerably in recent decades. These increased numbers can give more birth to hereditary cancers in the future, say, researchers.
In a hereditary cancer syndrome, various patterns of cancer can be easily seen within your family. These patterns only manifest in close family members (mother, daughter, and sister) and are usually a similar type of cancer, spreading at an early age, or consisting of two or more types of cancer developing in the same person. The gene that we carry may contribute to the greater risk of developing certain types of cancer, which include breast, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate cancer.
But it doesn't mean that you or I cannot develop cancer if we don't have any history of cancer patients at our home. Everyone has some risk of developing cancer, although in maximum cases the disease develops by chance.
Family history and how an individual can be at risk
If you have a personal or family history of cancer or other diseases then you may be at a greater risk of some cancers. It is advisable to share these details with your doctor and other family members as well. Give your doctor details of your relatives with a history of cancer, mention the type of cancer along with a diagnosis.
Causes of hereditary cancer
You are at a greater risk of getting cancer if you have a history of cancer in your family, which essentially means hereditary cancer. If a family member was diagnosed with cancer at an early age, or multiple and rare types of cancers have been diagnosed in the family, then you are at a higher risk.
If you want to access your cancer risk, genetic testing can be one option. The positive result for these mutations implies an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers. However, this test cannot say if you will develop cancer for sure. But it can indicate if you are at a higher risk than others.
Why go for genetic testing
If you have family members with a cancer diagnosis. If the cancer is linked to gene mutation. If any of the family members have discovered a gene mutation during genetic testing. The gene mutation is hereditary. Some of your close blood relations are likely to share similar or identical risk factors.
What if I'm adopted?
If you are adopted, it is normal that you have little or no information about your family history. You can talk to your genetic counselor regarding your family history that you know, like ethnicity or your birthplace. This is important information that must be shared with your doctor.
Is it important to opt for genetic testing?
It is important as it estimates your chances of developing cancer in your lifetime, especially if you have family members diagnosed with cancer. These tests search for specific changes in your genes, chromosomes, or proteins, which are known as mutations. Genetic tests are available for certain types of cancer.
Most importantly, do not jump to conclusions. Consult your doctor even before deciding to opt for genetic testing. Stay aware, stay safe!