Posted by: 2in10 | 10/11/2011

cancer genetics

The Autumn 2011 issue of Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Family HealthSource magazine highlights the issue of cancer genetics and the hospital’s screening and counseling program for cancers with what the article calls “a significant hereditary link.”

“About five to ten percent of gastrointestinal cancers (colon, pancreas and stomach), melanoma (skin) cancer and breast and ovarian cancers are correlated to genetic factors that are passed on from one generation to the next.”

Interested patients meet with a genetic counselor who reviews their personal medical history and family history and who may recommend screening by blood or saliva tests. 

According to the article, you would qualify for Newton-Wellesley’s Cancer Genetics Program if:

  • You or a close family member were diagnosed with cancer before age 50.
  • There are multiple individuals in your family with the same type of cancer or with related cancers (i.e. breast and ovarian cancer on the same side of the family).
  • There are rare types of cancer within the family (i.e. male breast cancer).
  • Your or a close family member has had more than one cancer (i.e. bilateral breast cancer or an individual who has had both colon and uterine cancers).
  • There is a known inherited cancer syndrome in your family.

All mammography and colonoscopy patients at Newton-Wellesley are included in the hereditary cancer risk assessment program that the hospital offers. Where appropriate they will be referred to genetic counselors. Recommendations might include lifestyle changes, increased screening, and prophylactic surgery.

Breast and ovarian cancers and colorectal cancer are two of the more common hereditary cancer syndromes but melanoma, thyroid, kidney, neuroendrocrine and others also fall in this category.

I have not had genetic screening. Whatever the results, I don’t think I would do anything different. I live every day to my mantra, get well and stay well, even after 17 years of good health. I know others who have had genetic screening and used the results as the foundation of their plan for healthy living. There is no easy answer. To each, her own. (More info at



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