Cancer Genetics Service

This webpage has been developed to support you and your family through potential cancer genetic assessment and testing (where required).  Webpage content was developed following extensive consultation and engagement with both hospital staff members and cancer genetic service users, as we are committed to providing all service users with easily understood, and helpful information.

The St. James’s Hospital Cancer Genetics Service provides comprehensive facilities to support individuals and their families whilst undergoing investigations for hereditary cancer syndromes.  Our service goal is to promote the prevention and early detection of cancer, and to assist with your decision-making where appropriate, regarding cancer treatments.  Initially, an assessment of the heritability of cancer in your family will be made by a consultant cancer geneticist, genetic counsellor and/or cancer genetic nurse specialist based on your personal and/or family cancer history.  Not all cancers are hereditary; the genes we are born with, may affect our likelihood of developing certain types of cancer.

The Cancer Genetics team will discuss your cancer risk with you.  We will provide information and support outlining the benefits and limitations of genetic testing, and advise which genetic tests (if any), may benefit you and your family.

If you are eligible for cancer genetic testing, a blood test may be undertaken, following your consultation.  Genetic testing is not advised for every person who attends the cancer genetics service, nevertheless, a cancer ‘risk assessment’ will be offered to you, irrespective of whether you have undertaken a genetic test.  Deciding on whether to undergo genetic testing is a personal choice which can be made during your counselling session, or afterwards.

Why have I been referred to the Cancer Genetics Department?

You have been referred to the Cancer Genetics Department at St. James’s Hospital to assess your cancer family history, and your potential eligibility for cancer genetic testing.  It is likely that your Doctor recommended you for referral, following your consultation and discussion with them.

Please note that we only offer diagnostic and predictive appointments to patients on receipt of an appropriate referral from a Doctor.

What is Cancer Genetics?

Cancer is a genetic disease, which is caused by changes to the genes which control the way our cells function (how they grow and divide).  Certain gene changes can cause cells to evade normal growth controls and become ‘cancer’.

Hereditary cancer predisposition syndromes occasionally exist within families.  During a cancer genetics consultation, information is provided concerning heritable cancer-causing genes, how they are inherited, and how any resulting cancer risk can be managed.

Is Cancer inherited?

Not all cancers are inherited; however, certain cancers are caused by heritable factors.  The Cancer Genetics Service can provide genetic testing and advice on the management of cancer inheritance.

What are Genes?

Genes are a special set of instructions inside the cells of our bodies that parents pass on to their children.  Genes contain information which tells our bodies how to grow and work. Genes are also responsible for many things, such as the colour of our eyes and the size of our feet.

What is Cancer Genetic Counselling?

Genetic counselling for cancer involves the provision of verbal and written information on specific cancer syndromes.  Visual aids may be used to inform patients on their cancer risks and relevant risk-reduction strategies.

Who can benefit from Cancer Genetic Counselling?

Anyone who has concerns about increased cancer risk in their family may benefit from genetic counselling.  Some concerns may be addressed by your Doctor who can help decide whether a referral to a Cancer Genetics Service is necessary.

How can Cancer Genetic Counselling help me?

There are a number of ways in which you can be assisted through Genetic Counselling;

  • We provide information, support and counselling to both individuals, and their families.
  • We can outline your likelihood of inheriting a cancer gene alteration (based on your family cancer history).
  • We can discuss cancer risk management plans with you.
  • We can also discuss any risks, benefits, and/or limitations of genetic testing.