Familial Cancer Program

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Five to ten percent of all cancer has been shown to have a hereditary or familial link. Using the most up-to-date information about hereditary cancers, a multidisciplinary team of Mayo Clinic health-care providers has established a program for individuals with a family history of cancer.

Program Goals

The Familial Cancer Program is designed to help identify patients at increased risk for cancer due to hereditary factors and to help patients understand their level of risk. Education and counseling about cancer risk, cancer risk reduction, effective screening and prevention options are key aspects of the program. Clinical genetic testing is available when appropriate.

The program also provides the opportunity for you to participate in research studies that may lead to discovery of new cancer genes or to a better understanding of how altered genes cause cancer. Such research may ultimately lead to new approaches to managing hereditary cancer.

Who is Eligible?

Many individuals have a family history of cancer. In many cases, only one or two family members have cancer. Often these are distant relatives who developed their cancers at an older age. This does not necessarily mean an inherited abnormality exists and may be associated only with a mild increase in the risk of cancer.

Some individuals, however, have an extensive family history of cancer, and/or early onset of cancer and/or more than one primary cancer. Individuals with the following characteristics may benefit from participation in the Familial Cancer Program:

  • One or more first-degree (parent, sibling, child) or second-degree relative(s) (aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, grandparent) with breast, ovarian, uterine or colorectal cancer diagnosed before or at age 50.

  • Two or more first- or second-degree relatives with breast, ovarian, uterine or colorectal cancer.

  • One or more first- or second-degree relative(s) with two primary cancers, such as breast and ovarian, breast and uterine, ovarian and uterine, breast and colon, etc.

  • Two or more first- or second-degree relative(s) with a combination of breast, ovarian, uterine and colorectal cancer.

  • Multiple occurrences of soft-tissue sarcomas, brain, colon, bone, ovarian, uterine, pancreatic, adrenal or breast cancer at young ages in first- or second-degree relatives.

Multidisciplinary Team

Team members available for your evaluation and treatment include:

  • geneticists
  • internal medicine physicians
  • oncologists
  • radiologists
  • gynecologists and gynecologic surgeons
  • nurse specialists
  • breast surgeons
  • plastic surgeons
  • dietitians
  • dermatologists
  • gastroenterologists
  • psychiatrists
  • research scientists
  • psychologists
  • social workers

What Will the Program Provide?

  • Personal health-history interview, general medical examination, laboratory and X-ray studies as appropriate.

  • A careful, detailed family history.

  • Specialized radiographic and blood tests, as determined by cancer patterns in the family.

  • Performance of special genetic tests, when appropriate.

  • Review of the risk factors for cancer.

  • Assessment of personal cancer risk.

  • Discussion of emotional and social concerns of high-risk patients, including approaches to help cope with those concerns.

  • Recommendations about appropriate prevention and screening.