Hereditary cancer

What is hereditary cancer?

The various cancers are multifactorial diseases caused by the combined effect of environmental and genetic factors. The majority of cancers are coincidental, although there are a number of factors that can increase or decrease the likelihood.

A small percentage, estimated to be about 5% of all tumors, are hereditary in nature, known as hereditary or familial cancer. These hereditary cancers are due to germline mutations in specific genes that increase the likelihood of developing cancer.

This susceptibility is transmitted among family members according to different inheritance patterns. Susceptibility to cancer does not imply a certainty of developing cancer in all cases.

Prognosis of the disease

The prognosis of cancer will vary, to a great extent, according to the stage of development in which it is found. Specialists distinguish stages from 0 to 4, which signify the spread of the cancer, the lower numbers being those of lesser severity. The earlier the cancer is detected, through examinations and tests, the better diagnosis the patient will have.

Symptoms of hereditary cancer

There are several symptoms that can be a sign of hereditary cancer:

  • When it is diagnosed in young patients, between the ages of 40 and 50.
  • When two cancers are suffered in succession or at the same time.
  • When there are several cases of the same type of cancer in the family.
See also  Immunotherapy, a promising approach in the fight against cancer

Genetic analysis is used to identify mutations in genes.

Medical tests for hereditary cancer

When the specialist suspects that the cancer may run in the family, a genetic analysis should be carried out to identify the genetic mutations that make it possible to identify the susceptibility to develop cancer in each case.

When the analysis is positive, a process called Genetic Counseling is initiated to study the entire affected family and locate the members who are carriers of these genes. Once identified, they are informed of the probabilities of developing cancer, how it can be detected early and the most appropriate therapeutic approach. These susceptible individuals should be monitored continuously to detect possible cancer at an early stage.

What are the causes of hereditary cancer?

Hereditary cancers are caused by changes or mutations in certain genes that are transmitted from one blood relative to another. These people who inherit one of these gene changes will be more susceptible to cancer during their lifetime.

Currently, different gene mutations are known that increase the chances of suffering from various tumors, although the genetic causes of all types of cancer have not yet been identified.

Can it be prevented?

It is possible to prevent hereditary cancer as soon as the specialist suspects the existence of a hereditary tumor. In such a case, the patient should undergo a Genetic Counseling study. If the test is positive, it will mean that there are genetic alterations in the person and that the person is likely to suffer cancer during his/her life. If it is negative, it will mean that the person is not a carrier of the mutation, although he/she may suffer sporadic cancer. Finally, the result may not be informative and may not determine whether or not the mutation is present.

See also  Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer

Treatments for hereditary cancer

In some cases, when those susceptible to cancer are detected, surgery may be indicated to prevent the appearance of cancer.

Once cancer is detected, the appropriate treatment must be followed in each particular case and depending on the cancer. The most common treatments may include:

  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Hormone therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Which specialist treats it?

Hereditary cancer should be treated by a specialist in Oncology. In some cases they may work together with specialists in Gynecology and Digestive System.