Genetics and High Risk-testing

Most cancer happens by chance and is not passed through families. However, in some individuals, cancer may be due to specific genetic factors that can be passed from parent to child or other high-risk factors. Identifying these hereditary and other factors can help to determine the risk of cancer for individuals and their relatives. Individuals at high risk for cancer have medical and other preventative options to both increase the chances of finding cancer early and reduce the risk of a first or second cancer. A careful review of one’s personal and family history is an essential first step in identifying high-risk status. Several cancer risk factors may include:

  • Age
  • Personal history
  • Family history
  • Inherited syndromes
  • Racial and ethnic background
  • Lifestyle-related factors (diet, smoking history, etc.)
  • Other factors (previous cancer treatments, industry exposures, etc.)

The first step of cancer risk assessment and counseling begins with collection of your personal and family medical history. Bon Secours Cancer Institute incorporates many risk-related questions into our assessment processes, which are then further reviewed for appropriateness for further counseling or high risk diagnostic testing. Several tools used to measure cancer risk are available to assess your own level of risk, such as the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool  and Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment Tool.

If you have any questions about whether you may be considered to have a genetic or high-risk factor for developing a cancer, Bon Secours Cancer Institute has several medical professionals available to assist you.


Follow-up for Bon Secours Cancer Institute patients seeking cancer high-risk and genetic risk assessment and genetic counseling services, regardless of cancer risk category, includes a discussion of cancer screening guidelines, reviewing limitations when relevant, methods for reducing cancer risk if known, and referrals to appropriate medical professionals for long-term medical management if needed.

Sources: Content based on materials provided by the American Cancer Society, Inc,. the National Society of Genetic Counselors and Myriad, Inc.