Cancer risk assessment isn’t just about genetic testing. It actually allows you to look at your family history, for at least three generations, of what cancers have occurred and at what ages they were diagnosed.
Just because you have a strong family history of cancer, doesn’t mean you should have genetic testing.
At the Via Christi Cancer Outreach and Risk Assessment Program, we go through all the different types of cancers, looking at the aspects of where they were diagnosed in the family; whether it was diagnosed on the maternal or paternal side, what ages they were diagnosed and if any of those cancers can correlate to each other.
So who should consider cancer risk assessment?
- Anyone with a history of ovarian cancer in a sister, mother or grandmother
- More than two incidents of breast cancer in a direct family line
- Any combination of three or more cancers in the same blood line
If you have two cancers on your mother’s side, and two cancers on your father’s side, those are completely separate. They can’t combine into a cancer risk. But having cancer on both sides of the family also means you can be at a higher risk because of both sides, but be at risk for completely different cancers or genes based on what is found within the family.
If you do decide to proceed with cancer risk assessment, it’s very important that you find out as much family history as you can prior to the appointment. The more information you can have in terms of specific diagnosis, the better.