Start with a careful look at your family history. Talk to your relatives to find out if anyone else is already looking into the family history of cancer. You may want to complete a family tree, such as the one in this pamphlet
Signs of hereditary cancer may include:
- 2 or more close relatives* on the same side of your family with the same kind of cancer
- Close relatives* with cancer diagnosed at younger ages than usual (e.g. colon cancer or breast cancer before age 50)
- Several close relatives* with a rare cancer
- Close relatives* with specific types of cancer (e.g. cancer of the colon and cancer of the uterus, or cancer of the breast and cancer of the ovaries)
If you are concerned, take your family history
to your doctor. Together, you will discuss the chance of hereditary cancer in your family. Ask your doctor if you need a referral to the Hereditary Cancer Program (HCP). Below is the pathway to follow:
If a relative has already had genetic testing for hereditary cancer, bring that information to your doctor. Through referral to the HCP, you will talk with a genetic counsellor about what that information means for you and your family.
If you don’t see signs of hereditary cancer in your family history, referral to the HCP is usually not needed. You can review regular cancer screening for people of your age and consult your primary care provider as needed.
*Close relatives refer to children, brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents from the same side of the family. Cancer in cousins and more distant relatives on the same side of the family may also be important.
You might think about hereditary cancer if more than 2 of your close relatives have had cancer. For hereditary cancer, these relatives must be on the same side of your family. Other signs include relatives with the same kind of cancer diagnosed at a young age and if several close relatives have had a rare cancer such as sarcoma or pancreatic cancer.
Sometimes the combination of different cancers in a family may also be a sign of hereditary cancer. The more close relatives with cancer you have, the higher the chance of hereditary cancer.