WashU Ob/Gyn > Patient Information > Gynecologic Oncology > Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment

Our gynecologic oncology specialists provide Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment services for people concerned about cancer risk in their families. We are a team of doctors, oncology nurse specialists, psychologists and a genetic counselor that are specially trained to provide current information about the risk of developing cancer based upon the personal and the family history of cancer.

We help patients and their families make informed decisions about genetic testing for genes that predispose to cancer. We also provide individualized recommendations for cancer screening and prevention based on personal medical history, cancer family history and/or genetic testing results.

Genes and hereditary cancer

Cancer is caused by genetic changes (mutations) that control how cells in our body grow and divide. When these mutations are passed on from one generation to the next, family members may inherit an increased chance to develop cancer. Fortunately, most cancer is not due to hereditary risk but rather from a combination of genetic and environmental interactions, such as smoking and diet. A family history of cancer does not necessarily mean you are high risk for developing cancer.

Hereditary risk for cancer, due to a single gene mutation, is responsible for about 5 percent to 10 percent of cancers overall. Ovarian cancer may be due to hereditary risk in 10-15% of cases. Some, but not all, of these genes have been identified. Genetic testing is available for several different hereditary cancer predisposition genes that are associated with specific types of cancer.

The pattern of cancer and ages of diagnosis of cancer in your family will help guide recommendations for genetic testing and/or cancer screening and prevention.

Research and technologic advances continue in the field of medical genetics and new options are being developed for genetic testing. Updated testing may be appropriate for individuals who previously had genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk.

Who is at risk

The Genetic Counseling for Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment is appropriate for you if you answer yes to one or more of the following:

  • Do you have a personal history of ovarian cancer?
  • Do you have a personal history of uterine cancer and close relatives with cancer of the colon, small intestine, uterus, ovaries, pancreas, kidney, liver or brain?
  • Are there multiple relatives in your family with breast and/or ovarian cancer?
  • Does cancer seem to run in your family?
  • Do you or any of your relatives have two or more different cancer types?
  • Were you or any of your relatives with cancer diagnosed less than age 50 years?
  • Do you have a family history of rare cancer types such as male breast cancer or sarcoma?
  • Do you have a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer and you are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry?
  • Do you have a relative who had genetic testing and has a mutation in one of the hereditary cancer genes?

Schedule an assessment

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact: