Hereditary Risk Assessment

St. Vincent’s Hereditary Risk Assessment Program specializes in early detection and prevention of cancer—specific to you and your condition. Early cancer detection, with proactive medical care, has been proven to help reduce cancer risk and save lives. If you believe you might have a genetic predisposition to cancer, we provide you with genetic counseling, education and testing so you can make informed healthcare decisions. St. Vincent’s physicians and genetic counselors are experts dedicated to helping you achieve your best possible outcome.  


Understanding Cancer Genetics

There are many causes for cancers. Some cancers occur by chance, while others are rooted in hereditary sources. Still other cancers are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors. 

Hereditary/genetic cancers account for approximately 5-10% of all cancers and are passed down from a parent to a child. A parent who carries a genetic mutation (permanent change in the DNA sequence) has a 25-50% chance of passing the gene on to his/her children. To reduce your and your children’s risk of developing certain cancers, it’s important to know and to share your family medical history with your relatives and with your cancer care team. 


Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC)

Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC) is an inherited condition that causes an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. HBOC is sometimes associated with an increased risk for pancreatic and prostate cancer. The majority of cases are caused by an alteration in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation , an inherited condition that causes an increased risk for early onset breast cancer (often before age 50) and ovarian cancer.  

At St. Vincent’s we will explore whether you or a family members have a history of the following determining factors of HBOC including:

  • Breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 50

  • Ovarian cancer at any age

  • Two breast cancers

  • Male breast cancer at any age

  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and HBOC-associated cancers (breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate) at any age

  • A previously identified HBOC syndrome mutation in your family


Hereditary Colorectal Cancer Syndromes

At St. Vincent’s, our physicians may recommend that tissue is taken from your blood or polyp (removed during a colonoscopy) to be examined to determine if you have evidence of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome. These may include:

  • Lynch Syndrome (also known as HNPCC) is an inherited condition that causes an increased risk for colon cancer, endometrial cancer and many other associated cancers (colon, endometrial, ovarian, stomach, ureter/renal pelvis, biliary tract, small bowel, pancreas, brain and sebaceous adenoma/carcinoma).

  • MUTYH Associated Polyposis is an inherited condition than can cause an increased risk for colorectal cancer and colon polyps.

  • Familial Adenomatous Polyposis is an inherited condition than can cause tens to hundreds of colorectal polyps, which can increase the risk for colorectal cancer and other associated cancers.

  • Other determining factors include:

  • Colon or rectal cancer before age 50

  • Endometrial cancer before age 50

  • Two or more Lynch Syndrome cancers at any age in the same person

  • Two or more family members with a Lynch Syndrome cancer on the same side of your family

  • Previously identified hereditary colon cancer mutation in your family

  • Ten or more colorectal polyps (adenomas) over time


High-Risk Women's Clinic 

St. Vincent’s High Risk Clinics, were created for women who may be at a higher than normal risk of developing cancer due to genetic makeup and hereditary tendencies. Funded by a $25,000 grant from the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative, our clinic provides women with an individualized plan for prevention and early detection of these malignancies, which often have a genetic inherited component. A nurse navigator works with our care team to ensure high-risk women are following surveillance guidelines to minimize lifetime risk of these diseases. 


Contact Us

St. Vincent’s Hereditary Risk Assessment Program provides genetic counseling, education and testing. Please contact us at 203-576-5179.