Hereditary Cancer Risk Evaluation

What is cancer risk evaluation?

Cancer Risk Evaluation is the process of determining your personal risk of cancer and is usually based on both your personal medical history and your family’s history of cancer. Your physicians then recommend appropriate screening tests to reduce your risk of developing cancer. This evaluation should be part of everyone’s routine checkup with their primary care physician. For some people this is not enough. People with blood relatives who have had cancer often may need a more detailed analysis called “Hereditary Cancer Risk Evaluation”. This evaluation helps determine both your personal risk for cancer and risks that might extend to your relatives. Minnesota Gastroenterology’s focus is on colon cancer and the cancers that can be related to colon cancer.

Cancers that occur because of inherited factors may occur at a younger age and more often than usual. They may need special screening tests and treatments that are different from usual recommendations.

The two major Colon Cancer Genetic Syndromes are Lynch Syndrome (previously known as Hereditary Non Polyposis Colorectal Cancer) and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis. The following internet sites can be helpful to explain these syndromes to you.

What are the steps in Hereditary Cancer Risk Evaluation?

Patients coming to Minnesota Gastroenterology for clinic visits or a procedure should discuss their family history with our physicians. We can give you an idea whether Hereditary Cancer Risk Evaluation is something that might be important for you and your family. If there is a chance that your family is affected by a hereditary cancer syndrome, we can provide you a list of genetic counselors to contact.

You would then contact one of the genetic counselors on the list provided below for an appointment. Genetics counselors are experts in interpreting complex family histories in order to assess cancer risk. They can help determine whether your family has an inherited cancer syndrome and whether genetic testing will be helpful. They can help you make an informed decision about such testing.


    • A genetic counselor may call you prior to the visit to review your family history and determine what medical records might be needed for the visit.
  • Genetics Counseling Appointment: During the appointment the counselor will review your family history, discuss how genetic risk factors might play a role in cancer, provide risk assessment and discuss the goals, risks, benefits and limitations of genetic testing. Genetic testing is not always helpful but the counselor will help you make an informed decision about such testing and answer all your questions. A health management plan involving screening and prevention can also be designed in light of individualized risks. You should always check with the counselor for updates if there are any changes in your personal or family history.



  • Discussion of genetic test results: If you proceed with genetic testing, you will speak with the genetic counselor when results are available. Your genetic counselor will review your risks with you and management options for you and your family.

Additional Resources:
My Family Health Portrait

This website allows you to create drawings of your family health history to share with family or health care worker.