Hereditary Cancer Program

Akron Children's Genetic Center offers a Hereditary Cancer Program for adults who are suspected of having a hereditary cancer syndrome in their families. Read More...

Ward-Melver Catherine
Catherine Ward-Melver, MD
Clinical Geneticist

D'Attoma Julie
Julie D'Attoma, RN
Case Manager, Hereditary Cancer Program; Metabolic Clinic Nurse

Parker Marcie
Marcie Parker, MS, LGC
Licensed Genetic Counselor

Stein Jennifer
Jennifer Stein, MS, LGC
Licensed Genetic Counselor



Close
Close

Meet Our Patients

Close

Overview

Hereditary Cancer Program - Overview

Through an assessment of family history and medical records, Akron Children's genetic counselors and physicians can determine who may be at risk for a hereditary predisposition to cancer.

With this information, you and your doctor can develop a plan to reduce your risk of developing these cancers. People who are referred to our hereditary cancer program usually have a personal or family history of cancer, or both.

Our program provides:

  • Evaluation of personal and family history
  • Risk assessment for familial and hereditary cancer syndromes
  • Identification and discussion of genetic testing options

Genetic testing and risk assessment can be a complicated process. Our goal is to provide you with information about your cancer risk and assist you in using your personal genetic information to make informed decisions about screening and ongoing healthcare management.

We also work with your physician to help set up a patient care plan personalized to you.

Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Many things, including environmental and hereditary, may affect your chance of developing cancer. About 1 in every 3 women with breast cancer has a family history of cancer: however, this does not mean it’s hereditary. Cancer is very common and may occur in more than 1 family member due to similar lifestyle choices, shared environmental factors, or purely by chance.

Certain families have an identifiable factor increasing their risk of developing cancer. In fact, 5 to 10 percent of breast and ovarian cancer cases are due to an inherited change (mutation) in a single gene. The first such genes identified were BRCA1 and BRCA2. Since then additional genes have been identified and new testing options are developing rapidly.

The role of these genes is to prevent cancer by keeping cells from growing abnormally. If you inherit a change in one of these genes from either parent, this protection may be lost. Therefore, women with a hereditary mutation in any of these genes have an increased lifetime risk of getting breast, ovarian or other cancers.

Who is at risk?

Your risk may be greater if you have a personal or family history (on your mother’s or father’s side) of the following:

  • Breast cancer before age 50
  • Breast cancer in both breasts
  • Breast and ovarian cancer in the same woman
  • Male breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer (at any age)
  • Multiple family members with breast or ovarian cancer in more than 1 generation
  • A relative who tested positive for a known cancer-related gene mutation
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry along with another risk factor

What information can genetic testing offer?

Genetic testing for hereditary cancer-related gene mutations is called susceptibility testing. If testing identifies a gene change, it does not mean you have cancer or will get it. It means you have a higher risk of developing certain cancers compared to the general population. If you know this, there are cancer screenings and prevention options beyond what is recommended for the general population. Testing may also identify people who are not at risk and do not need increased screening.

Hereditary cancer predisposition tests are often complex, and the decision to pursue them is not always straightforward. It can be a very emotional and personal decision that is not right for everyone. In addition, test results may be difficult to interpret. Your decision to be tested can also affect your family. If you test positive, other family members including your children and siblings may carry the same mutation. Because of these factors, the American Society of Clinical Oncology  recommends you speak with a genetic professional before making a decision regarding testing.

Hereditary Colorectal Cancer

Most people have a 5 to 6 percent chance of developing colorectal cancer in their lifetime. It may occur in more than one family member because of similar lifestyle choices, shared environmental factors, or purely by chance. It may also be inherited, or passed down, through a family in 5 to 7 percent of all cases.

Hereditary colorectal cancer is caused by an inherited change (mutation) in one of several genes, which can cause cells to grow out of control.

The most common cause of inherited colorectal cancer is Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer Syndrome (HNPCC) or Lynch syndrome. Other hereditary forms include familial adenomatous polyposis, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome and juvenile polyposis  syndrome.

Who is at risk?

Your risk may be greater if you have a personal or family history (on your mother’s or father’s side) of the following:

  • Colorectal cancer before the age of 50
  • Multiple colorectal cancers or more than one HNPCC-associated cancer (such as colorectal, small bowel, endometrial, ureter, renal, ovarian or stomach cancer)
  • Two or more close relatives with a HNPCC-associated cancer
  • A relative who has tested positive for a gene mutation that is known to increase colorectal cancer risk
  • A relative with more than 10 colorectal polyps

What information can genetic testing offer?

If testing identifies a gene change, it does not mean you have cancer or will get it. It means you have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.  This knowledge may empower you to have a more active role in cancer screening and to consider additional prevention options. Testing may also identify people who are not at risk and not in need of increased screening or additional testing.

Genetic tests for hereditary cancer are often complex, and the decision to pursue them is not always straightforward. In addition, test results may be difficult to interpret. We understand that genetic testing can be an emotional and personal decision, which may not be right for everyone.  Additionally, while testing has implications for you, it may also affect your family. Due to the variety of benefits and limitations associated with hereditary cancer predisposition testing, the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends you speak with a genetics professional before making a decision regarding testing. 

Who should consider a cancer risk assessment?

To help determine whether a cancer risk assessment may benefit you and your family, consider these screening guidelines:

  • Cancer diagnosed at an early age (under age 50)
  • Cancer affecting multiple generations of the family (does not need to be the same type of cancer)
  • The same type of cancer affecting 3 or more relatives on the same side of the family
  • More than one cancer in the same person (such as having both breast and ovarian cancer or having cancer in both breasts)
  • Unusual or rare cancers (such as male breast cancer)
  • A personal and family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • A personal and family history of colon, uterine, stomach or ovarian cancer
  • Breast or ovarian cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • A known hereditary cancer syndrome and/or a previously identified cancer gene mutation in the family

If you think you may benefit from cancer risk assessment, discuss your personal and family history with your doctor.

Close

What To Expect

Your first visit to our hereditary cancer program usually takes 60 to 90 minutes. During this time, you meet with a genetic counselor and physician who are experienced in genetic cancer risk assessment.

During the visit:

  • A genetic counselor will review the information you have collected about the cancer in your family.
  • A genetic cancer risk assessment and evaluation will be performed based on the cancer history provided.
  • You will receive information on familial and hereditary cancers for which your family may be at risk.
  • Screening, management and risk reduction strategies will be reviewed.
  • You will learn about the pros and cons of genetic testing and consider whether genetic testing may be appropriate and desirable for you and your family.

If you choose to have genetic testing, you typically have a follow-up appointment to review the test results and discuss what they mean for you and your family.

At that time, you may also discuss additional testing, testing for other family members, and development of a medical management plan to address your risk. Insurance companies will often cover specific genetic testing. Testing coverage and preauthorization is discussed at your visit.

If your test results reveal the presence of a genetic mutation, we help you develop a medical management plan and communicate this information to your referring healthcare provider. We also help you inform other family members in a sensitive manner.

We can connect your family members who live in other areas of the country with trained healthcare providers through an international network of cancer genetics specialists. 

Genetic testing for a hereditary cancer can be a very emotional and personal decision that is not right for everyone.

Additionally, while testing has implications for an individual, it also affects one’s family. Due to the benefits and limitations associated with hereditary cancer predisposition testing, it is important to be fully informed before making a decision about testing.

Akron Children's genetic counselors are available to discuss the benefits and limitations of testing, as well as psychological, insurance and confidentiality issues associated with testing.

Bookmark and Share

Developments Developments
Sign up for enewsletter
Get involved Get involved
Discover ways to support Akron Children's
Join the conversation Join the conversation
See what our patient families are saying
Donate online

Give today


Donate online

Hereditary Cancer Program
our locations

Akron Children's Hospital
Genetic Center
300 Locust St., Suite 500
Akron , OH 44302
Phone: 330-543-8792
Fax: 330-543-3677
More Information...

Akron Children's Hospital
Boardman Medical Pavilion
Pediatric Specialties
8423 Market St., 3rd Floor
Boardman , OH 44512
Phone: 330-729-1145
Fax: 330-729-1931
More Information...