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If you have a
family history of cancer, you may be worried that your own risk is increased,
but this is not always the case. On 29 May we hosted a webchat on genetics and
cancer with our specialist nurse Jennifer Gorrie.
answered questions on which cancer types can be associated with inherited
genes, as well as on services such as genetic counselling and genetic testing.
much to Jennifer for taking part, as well as to everyone who came along and
asked a question.
information on genetics
and cancer on our website.
lost both of my grandparents to cancer, and 2 months ago I also lost my father
to cancer. I was wondering if it’s something that runs on my dad’s side of the
family and what the chances are of it continuing.
It’s important to remember that cancer is a common
disease, but certain things would alert us that a cancer may be hereditary: cancers
occurring at a younger age than normal, the same cancer type occurring on the
same side of the family, a family member with more than one primary cancer and
certain patterns of cancers occurring together (for example breast and ovarian
or bowel and womb). Read
more about risks and genetics here.
three had different types of cancer but all eventually spread to the brain. Is
there a test that you can have to see if you’re more likely to get cancer?
Testing is available for certain genes known to
cause cancer; but if your grandparents had different types of cancer; it’s less
likely to have been caused by one of these genes, particularly if they were
You can only test for common cancer faulty genes if
you have a living relative willing to be tested to identify the gene. We have
You might like to give us a call on freephone 0808
808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm) and ask to talk to a cancer information
nurse specialist who will be happy to provide you with information and support
about your specific case.
bowel cancer is genetic. I have been tested for lynch, m.a.p and f.a.p but it’s
none of those. Do you think they will ever find the one that caused it?
At the moment these are the main known cancer genes
which are known to increase the risk of developing bowel cancer, but researchers
are always checking for new faulty genes. Our information Are
you worried about bowel cancer? discusses some of these conditions
the faulty gene could have started with me?
It’s possible - sometimes there is no family
history, but the faulty gene starts in someone.
son-in-law’s father died of bowel cancer two years ago. Since my bowel cancer
is genetic, should they keep a close check on him and his two little girls?
Bowel cancer is a common disease and most cases are
To discuss your family history in more detail, you
might like to speak to one of our cancer information nurse specialists on
freephone 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm).
daughter has ulcerative colitis, too. How often do you think she should have a
Ulcerative colitis can increase your risk of bowel
cancer - perhaps talking to her specialist will help. We have information about
and risks of bowel cancer.
am BRCA1+ (recently found this out). I already have ovarian cancer, but what
are the risks of me now getting breast cancer? I am told that my lifetime risk
of breast cancer is 80%, but is that reduced now that my ovaries are gone?
Breast cancer risk in pre menopausal women with
BRCA gene fault is reduced by around 50% by having your ovaries removed.
what is your opinion on the need for prophylactic surgery?
Risk-reducing mastectomy reduces your risk further
- around 90%. It may help to talk to your specialist more about things.
We also have some information on risk-reducing
breast surgery on our website.
mother had breast cancer age 48 and died age 49. Should I be worried?
48 is a bit younger than normal to get breast
cancer, but it also depends on other family history.
no other family history - should my sister and I get tested or have a mammogram?
She is 48 and I am 44.
You could try OPERA
– it’s our online interactive tool that helps you check your risk of hereditary
breast and/or ovarian cancer. You can print out the results and take them along
to talk to your GP about your concerns.
Breast and ovarian cancer can both occur as part of
BRCA gene faults. However, it is important to remember that most breast cancers
are not hereditary and happen by chance.
have suspected phaeochromocytoma (either malignant or non malignant) - I
understand this is linked to genes. Is this right? And, if so, who would the
genetic tests need to be performed on?
Most phaeochromocytomas are benign. Only about 1 in 10 (10%)
are cancerous. This type of cancer is very rare and there is only 1 diagnosed
for every 100,000 people in the UK each year. They may be caused by a number of
rare gene faults, including MEN type 2, and Von-Hippel
Genetic testing may be offered to yourself, as you have the
phaeochromocytoma. However, if you have a living relative who has also been
diagnosed with a phaeoochromocytoma (or one of the other conditions associated
with MEN type 2 or VHL), they may be tested first.
is a lot of research into cancer - do you think they will find a cure in our
I would like to see that, too and there is lots of
am 33 and have had stage 2 breast cancer. I have some Jewish ancestry. Should I
go for genetic testing?
I would certainly discuss genetic counselling
referral with your doctors, as we know BRCA gene faults more common in Jewish
ancestry and you are young. It is always helpful to let the doctors know of
your family history and ancestry so they can assess your risk.
Breast cancer gene faults are more common in the Ashkenazi
Jewish (eastern European Jewish) and also
If you'd like more information, you might want to
see web pages about genetic
counselling – it includes a video of a health professional explaining
am having my tumour and polyps (from bowel cancer) looked at. As I am only 30
and have no family history of cancer of any type, they are now trying to ID the
faulty gene in me, to establish follow-up care and whether it will affect any
children I have. We think that the rest of my family should be OK, and my
sister is all clear, so that's good. I find the genetics thing really
interesting, but a bit confusing!
If you are found to have a faulty gene, most genes
are passed on to children in a dominant manner; FAP and HNPCC are passed on
like this. If a person has one of these faulty genes there would be a 50%
chance of this being passed on to your children.
A rare bowel condition called MYH polyposis May
also be called MAP) is passed on in a recessive manner. If this you were found
to have this, there wouldn’t be a risk to your children.
There’s more information on bowel
cancer and genetics on our website.
We've also got a video
of Wendy and her family describing their experiences of genetic testing
- you might find it helpful to hear from other people who've been there too.
got to visit the Northern Cancer Care Centre at the RVI in Newcastle, to visit
the genetics team, and it is amazing! Lovely building, so light and airy, and
it felt like a really relaxing place to be. Makes a difference!
wonder if Jennifer could give us some words of wisdom on how faulty genes get
passed from generation to generation?
Genes are passed on from both parents. Most cancers
are passed on in autosomal dominant manner, which means a 50% chance of being
passed on each time. There is information on the Genetic Alliance UK website
which explains autosomal dominant and
recessive inheritance patterns.
have prostate cancer, and I know this can be passed down to children as either
prostate or breast cancer.
BRCA2 genes can be passed on to either sex and,
yes, you are correct that this can lead to increased risk of prostate cancer in
men. However, most prostate cancers are not caused by inherited faulty genes,
but happen by chance.
There’s more information on prostate
cancer and genetics on our website.
granddad had bowel cancer and my husband is dying of it. Should my kids be
screened and, if so, at what age?
It might be helpful if you contact our Macmillan
Support Line, so that we can take more of a family history and can signpost you
further if required. It’s freephone 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm).
BRCA1+ gene fault comes down from my grandfather. My mother died of ovarian
aged 55 (diagnosed at 48), I was diagnosed at 48; one of my grandfather's
sisters and two of his nieces died in their 40s of breast cancer. Would you say
that other cousins who are now in their 60s and 70s have likely missed the
hereditary cancers develop at a younger age, so most likely. But as not
everyone who carries the BRCA 1 gene gets cancer, I cannot say for sure. But,
again, if you want to call us we can talk in more detail. They can also talk to
their GP, and if appropriate he can arrange referral to family genetics
had a lot of family members die of all different forms of cancer over the years.
I lost my mum to ovarian cancer over 8 years ago, her sister the year before to
lung cancer, her mum to lung cancer, dad’s mum was riddled with it and now my
dad has also been diagnosed. Should myself, my siblings and our kids get tested
Cancer is a common disease - 1 in 3 of us will get
it. The biggest risk factor for most cancers is increasing age. Also, with
regard to lung cancer it is important that you consider lifestyle factors such
lung cancer genetic?
Lung cancer is not usually hereditary. It is
important however that when you are looking at family history that you check
whether the lung cancer is a secondary from another site. If you'd like more
information you could look at our section on lung
it was the primary, but my granddad also had prostate cancer, so I wondered if
it was a gene fault.
It is important to look at lifestyle and age of the
persons with cancer. The biggest risk for lung cancer is smoking, and prostate
cancer is common in older men. You can read about causes
and risk factors of prostate cancer and lung
cancer on our website.
husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, his mother died of
bowel cancer 10 years ago and his aunt had breast cancer. I guess I'm worried
that it could be passed along somehow to any children we might have? I know it’s
not the same type of cancer, but three types in one family is a bit worrying to
As these are different types of cancer they are
unlikely to be linked.
is testicular cancer hereditary? If we had a son would we need to get him
checked sometime before the age my husband was diagnosed? I guess we're just
worried as they all got it so young. My husband was 28, and his mum and aunt
were in their 40s.
Testicular cancer is not usually hereditary, but if
there are a number of people with testicular cancer in the family with
testicular cancer it may be.
Testicular cancer is in general a younger man’s
disease, but this does not mean it is hereditary.
You may find it helpful to read our information on causes
and risk factors of testicular cancer.
What we are looking for are the same cancers in the
same side of the family, occurring in younger ages than normal. Certain patterns of cancers running together
in a family, such as breast and ovarian or bowel and womb, for example. There
is no link between breast cancer, bowel cancer and testicular cancer.
not sure what that means - certain patterns?
I mean types of cancers occurring together in the
same family. For example, breast and ovarian cancer are caused by BRCA (breast
cancer genes), so both of those in the same family would be a pattern. You can
read about this on
our risk and genetics pages.
If you are worried your husband can ask his
specialist about this.
Certain bloodlines in my own family have a high risk of ovarian cancer. I would like to point out that if you are in this position, you are much better off than the average woman. Ovarian cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose before it's too late to treat it, so any screening process that allows you to be followed up on a regular basis is a very good idea. If you are diagnosed with a possible tumour, it can be treated while it is still very small. Most women who get ovarian cancer are not as lucky.
three of my sons have hereditary bowel cancer of which my husband died of two have had operations the third is going into hospital soon they have children what are the chances of my grandchildren getting this disease
I'm so sorry to hear that hereditary bowel cancer has affected your family so badly. It's understandable that you must be very worried about your grandchildren. I suggest you give our Macmillan Support Line a call and speak to one of the specialist cancer nurses, like Jennifer who hosted this webchat. They will be able to talk through the risks with you. It's freephone 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm).
hi, i would like some advice if possible, my dad died 12 years ago of cancer of the oesophagus and my uncle (my dads twin brother) died 4 years ago from the same thing. could this be passed down to me, i have always been worried about this and would like some answers, i have already had a scare of cervicel cancer 2 yrs ago and get checked ever year. please help.
I'm sorry to hear that you have lost your dad and your uncle. I can see that it must be very worrying for you that it was the same cancer type in both cases. If you give our Macmillan Support Line a call on freephone 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm), one of our specialist nurses will take a detailed family history from you and talk you through the risks and whether genetic testing might be appropriate.
If you have any questions about our organisation our Macmillan team would love to hear from you
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2010
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