Cancers arise due to accumulation of damage to genes involved in controlling cell growth and DNA repair. In contrast to “sporadic” cancers, in which all mutations are acquired after birth, hereditary cancers arise in individuals who have inherited a mutation in a cancer-causing gene. These individuals generally develop cancer at a younger age than those with sporadic cancers and often develop multiple cancers. Approximately 5-10 percent of cancers arise due to inherited mutations in genes responsible for hereditary cancer syndromes. The most common hereditary cancer syndromes that cause gynecologic cancers are hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome, and Lynch syndrome. Other inherited gene mutations may predispose to gynecologic cancers to a lesser degree, but would not typically manifest as a hereditary cancer syndrome.
Genetic counselors play an important role in helping individuals and their families learn more about their genetic testing options that can lead to the identification of available options if an cancer-linked genetic mutation is identified.
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