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 characteristics:
___ 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
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).
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 testing.
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 gene.
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.