About Hereditary Cancer

5 to 10 percent of all cancers are hereditary or caused by a non-functional gene. Individuals with hereditary cancer may be at an increased risk of developing particular types of cancer, including breast, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate cancers. UT Health Austin’s Livestrong Cancer Institutes offer genetic counseling available to cancer patients and family members at risk of hereditary cancer.

Who should receive genetic counseling

Individuals who are at an increased risk for hereditary cancer should consider genetic counseling. Risk factors for hereditary cancer include:

  • Cancer diagnosis at an unusually young age (typically under the age of 50)
  • Diagnosis of a rare cancer, such as male breast cancer
  • Multiple cancer diagnoses in a single individual
  • Multiple generations of a family diagnosed with cancer
  • Multiple relatives diagnosed with the same cancer or associated cancers

The goal of genetic counseling is to help individuals understand their risk of developing cancer. If genetic testing identifies hereditary cancer, options for prevention and early detection may be available.

What genetic counseling looks like

Meeting with our genetic counselor may include reviewing the following:

  • Your personal medical and cancer screening history
  • Your family’s cancer history dating back at least three generations
  • Reviewing the possibility of an inherited cancer risk using computerized risk assessment tools
  • The benefits and limitations of genetic testing for you and your family
  • A strategy for genetic testing that best meets your needs
  • Current laws regarding the privacy of genetic information

Our genetic counselor coordinates with each patient’s medical oncologist, advanced practice provider, and other providers so that the entire care team is aware of the patient’s needs and preferences.

What genetic counseling is not

Genetic counseling cannot predict a cancer diagnosis. Individuals with certain genetic mutations may have a higher than average risk of developing cancer, but not everyone with such genetic mutations will develop cancer.