Understanding Your Cancer Risk

Why prevention and early detection matter

No one likes to think about cancer. But learning the genetic risk factors that increase your chances of getting cancer could be lifesaving. We’re here to help you understand your risk and explore ways to prevent cancer or detect it early when it’s easiest to treat. Reach out to your Novant Health primary provider to ask about cancer screenings, genetic testing and counseling.

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What is genetic counseling?

Our genetic counselors are part of our collaborative cancer risk team. They work with our clinics to establish individualized plans for high-risk patients to prevent cancer or catch it in its earliest stages. Genetic counselors can also determine if your medical or family history qualifies you for genetic testing. We’ll help you understand what services are covered under your insurance plan.

Know Hereditary Risk Factors

Scientists have discovered various genetic traits that may increase a person's risk of getting certain types of cancers. Genetic testing for cancer can be a valuable tool in identifying your risk factor for many types of cancer, in particular:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
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Risk factors for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) include:

  • Those with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer in males
  • Family history of women with breast cancer before age 50
  • Those of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Family history of prostate or pancreatic cancer
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Hereditary risk factor for colorectal cancer:

  • Lynch Syndrome, which can be detected with a DNA test. Personal history of endometrial or colorectal cancer:
    • Under 50
    • Under 60 with MSI-H histology
    • Any age with a second Lynch-related cancer
    • Any age with one or more first-degree relatives with a Lynch-related cancer
    • Any age with two or more first or second-degree relatives with a Lynch-related cancer
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) hereditary condition:

    • Personal history of 10 to 20+ cumulative colorectal polyps (adenomas)
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Diagnostic tests and procedures

If your healthcare provider finds something abnormal during an exam or you have a concerning symptom, you may need further tests to determine if you have cancer or another condition. Novant Health provides various tests and procedures to detect cancer, including:

  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • Bone marrow aspiration
  • Cologuard
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT Scan
  • Endoscopy
  • FIT (fecal immunochemical test)
  • Lab testing
  • 3D mammography
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • PET scan
  • CT scan
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray

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The Importance of Cancer Screenings

Because cancer is most treatable when caught early, our healthcare providers recommend screenings for certain types of cancers at specific ages. Talk to your primary care provider to find out what age is best for you to begin screenings and how often you should plan to get them. Our cancer screenings include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Lung cancer screening
  • 3D mammography
  • Pap test
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Request a video visit.

If you’re an existing Novant Health patient with a MyChart account, you can get help from our genetic counselors — even if you don’t live near one — through our online video visits. During your online appointment, if you learn that you're a candidate for genetic testing, we'll conveniently arrange for the tests and blood work to be done at your home.