Colorectal Cancer Genetic Counseling

In conjunction with the Department of Colon and Rectal Surgery, genetic counseling is available to those with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer that is suggestive of a hereditary cancer predisposition.

There are several features of a family history that should raise the suspicion of a hereditary colon cancer syndrome:

  • A personal or family history of colon cancer diagnosed at an unusually young age (<50 years)
  • A personal or family history of colonic polyps diagnosed at an unusually young age (<45 years) or in large numbers (>10 polyps)
  • The presence of distinctive extra-colonic cancers, such as uterine cancer and colon cancer, in a family

An initial cancer genetic counseling session typically lasts one hour. During this session, a genetic counselor will ask detailed questions about your personal medical history and the medical history of your family members. The family tree (pedigree) is a useful tool for determining the likelihood that the cancer in the family is due to a hereditary cancer predisposition gene. The session will include a discussion of cancer genetics and the purpose of genetic testing, including advantages and disadvantages of pursuing genetic testing. Other topics that are often discussed in the initial session include potential genetic discrimination concerns and current legal protections, risks to other family members and screening recommendations.

If an individual decides to pursue genetic testing, a genetic counselor will help facilitate the testing. Follow-up appointments are often necessary to discuss the results of the genetic test and typically last up to 30 minutes.

Visit our patient resources page to learn about basic genetics principles and for information about specific hereditary cancer predisposition syndromes.

To schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor, please call 781-744-9229.