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The Cancer Center Genetics Screening Program provides genetic counseling and testing to individuals who may be at an increased risk of cancer due to an underlying inherited genetic condition.
The Cancer Genetics Screening Program is part of the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center. The goal of the program is to provide personalized counseling regarding cancer risk, cancer genetics, genetic testing, early detection, improved cancer management and possible risk reduction.
Gene Mutations and Cancer
Cancer has many risk factors. Experts continue to research how normal cells, through genetic changes (mutations), turn into cancerous cells. A mutation is a change of the DNA or chromosome within a gene. Two types of gene mutations can cause cancer:
Random or Somatic gene mutations: The majority of cancers are the result of random gene mutations that develop throughout a patient’s lifetime. A mutation may occur when cells divide. Mutations may be due to environmental factors, such as aging, radiation or chemicals. These types of mutations are not passed on to the next generation.
Inherited or Germ Line gene mutations: These gene mutations are passed down from generation to generation (inherited cancer). If a person is born with an inherited cancer gene, he or she may have a higher risk of developing cancer, and the mutation can be passed to their children.
It is not certain that people who inherit a known cancer gene will actually get cancer. However, they have a much higher risk of developing cancer compared to the general population. In other words, people don’t inherit cancer from their families; they inherit an increased risk of developing cancer. About 5 percent to 10 percent of all cancers are due to a hereditary factor.
Many genes have been identified that play a role in certain cancers. For example, researchers have discovered genes that can contribute to the development of some forms of breast, ovarian, colorectal, uterus (endometrium), thyroid, pancreatic cancer and melanoma.
To help you understand your family history of cancer, the Cancer Genetics Screening Program at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin offers:
Cancer risk assessment
Our genetic counselors and physicians will help you understand your family medical history and your personal risk of cancer. This information may be helpful when making decisions about strategies for cancer risk reduction. These strategies can include changes in surveillance (testing) compared to a general (regular risk) population, prophylactic surgeries, and other interventions.