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Hereditary Cancer

​What is Hereditary Cancer?

We have many genes in our body which protect us from cancer. However, if there is a change in a cancer protection gene, causing it to be faulty, a person may have a higher chance of developing certain cancers.

Not all people who inherit this gene change may develop cancer, but they have a higher chance for this to occur.

As we share our genes with our family members, other people in the family may also be at risk for cancer.

This is why there may be many people diagnosed with cancer in one family.

Frequently asked questions

Could my family history be due to a hereditary cause?

There are certain factors that may raise the suspicion for a hereditary cause.

These include:

  • Family history of cancer: Multiple individuals being diagnosed with similar types or patterns of cancer in one family.
  • Age of onset: Individuals who are diagnosed with cancer at a younger age.
  • Multiple cancers: Individuals who are diagnosed with more than one primary cancer.
  • Rare or unusual types of cancer

What are the benefits of knowing if a hereditary cause exists in my family?

If we know that someone has a gene change that increases their risk for cancer, there are many things that can be done to manage cancer risks.

Some examples include screening to detect the cancer at an early and manageable stage, interventions to reduce the risk for cancer, or even possibly preventing it.

Not all family members will inherit this gene change. This knowledge can also provide reassurance and can help to direct the correct management (i.e. avoid unnecessary check-ups and screening in individuals who are not at increased risk).

What should I do if I think there is a hereditary cause in my family?

If you suspect a hereditary cause in your family, you may want to discuss this with your doctor.

Your doctor will advise whether or not you need to be referred to the Cancer Genetics Service.

If you would like to learn more about hereditary cancer, please contact the Cancer Genetics Service at the National Cancer Centre Singapore and request to speak to a genetic counsellor.