Cancer Genetics Program
Lifespan Cancer Institute

Reasons for Referral

Common Reasons for Referral to the Program

Your primary care physician or physician specialist may refer you for genetic counseling if you have indications that you may be at risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome. Cancers that have a percentage of patients with inherited susceptibility include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancers, including pancreatic and colon cancer
  • Gynecologic cancers, including uterine and ovarian cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Melanoma

Some common risk factors are:

  • Cancer diagnosed at an unusually young age (for example, breast or colon cancer before age 50)
  • Two or more close family members with a history of cancer on the same side of the family. Of note, the risk for cancer can be inherited from either side of the family (for example, breast/ovarian cancer risk can be inherited from the father’s side as well as the mother’s side).
  • Two or more primary cancer diagnoses in the same individual (such as two primary breast cancers, or a primary colon cancer and primary stomach cancer)
  • A known genetic mutation in the family
  • Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Other physical signs associated with hereditary cancer predisposition such as multiple colon polyps or specific skin findings

It is important to bear in mind that even if testing shows that an individual has a gene that is associated with a type of cancer, it does not mean that individual will develop cancer. Other factors influence whether cancer develops or is inhibited from developing. Genetic monitoring allows for greater customization of screening and preventive care in at-risk individuals and family members, and referrals for treatment if necessary.

If several members of my family have cancer, does it mean that the cancer is hereditary?

Possibly. This is why a genetics evaluation at the Lifespan Cancer Institute may be helpful for you. Cancer is common; nearly one in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in his or her lifetime. During the genetics evaluation, your personal and family history will be reviewed. Based on this information, genetic testing may or may not be appropriate. Regardless if genetic testing is ordered, personalized risk assessment can be offered to help decide the best cancer screening plan for you. Because our understanding of the hereditary nature of cancer is evolving rapidly, there may be some benefit to updated evaluation at the Cancer Genetics Program every few years or if your family or personal history changes.