Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Most cancer develops due to random chance. However, about 5-10% of all cancers develop because of a gene change, or mutation, passed down through a family. Changes in certain genes cause a higher chance of getting cancer. People with a change in one of these genes have a hereditary cancer predisposition syndrome.

Our state-of-the-art cancer genetics program provides counseling for patients with suspected hereditary cancer syndromes. Our team of counselors, nurses and doctors specializes in cancer genetics.

Who Should Consider Genetic Evaluation and Counseling

You may want to make an appointment you or a family member:

  • Were diagnosed with cancer at a younger than average age
  • Have more than one relative on the same side of the family with the same cancer type
  • Have one or more relatives with multiple cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer
  • Were diagnosed with certain rare cancers such as male breast cancer or a sarcoma

Benefits of Genetic Counseling

By understanding your personal cancer risk, you can:

  • Gather information to make well-informed decisions
  • Identify family members who may have an increased risk of cancer
  • Learn about increased risks for more than one type of cancer
  • Develop a custom screening plan to increase the chance of early cancer detection
  • Gain reassurance, in some cases, that you or family members are not at increased risk for cancer

Before Your Appointment

Family cancer history is important to an accurate cancer risk evaluation. To help you to collect family history information, we’ll send you a questionnaire before your appointment. Important information to know:

  • Who in the family has had cancer
  • Where their cancer(s) started, and what type it was
  • How old they were when diagnosed with cancer (for each different cancer)
  • Whether anyone in the family has had genetic testing. If so, getting a copy of their test result will be very important.

If you have pathology records for family members who have had cancer or suspected cancer, bring them with you. (In some cases, other medical records and/or death certificates can be helpful.)

family photo showing hereditary traits

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