Family History



What is family history and how does it affect my risk?

You may be at greater risk for some cancers if you have a personal or family history of cancer or certain diseases. To help determine your risk, complete this family medical history chart and share it with your health care professional and other family members.

For each blood relative, mark in the box if they have had cancer, the type of cancer they had and at what age they had it. This will help you and your health care professional decide which cancer screenings you may need and when to begin them.

**To view a downloadable version of the family history chart, click here.

Genetic testing allows for improved diagnosis

Because scientists have identified the genes responsible for hereditary colon cancer syndromes, we now have genetic tests that can determine whether or not a person has inherited the mutation.

Genetic testing of people who have not be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but whose family history includes disease, typically involves taking a small sample of blood. The testers take DNA from white blood cells in the sample and look for the mutations.

When health care professionals suspect colorectal cancer is the result of HNPCC, a sample of the tumor is examined to screen for genetic instability. If the genes are unstable, then a blood sample can be used to test for a mutation in one of the several genes that has been linked to HNPCC. This test is not always definitive. In more than 30 percent of families with HNPCC, a mutation can’t be detected by genetic testing.

When considering genetic testing for colorectal cancer, speak with a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor can help you understand what having a genetic test may mean and help you make a decision about whether testing is right for you.