Hereditary Cancer

If you're at greater risk for cancer due to your genetics, we have an expert team to manage your care.

Hereditary Cancer Clinic
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Genetic Counseling and Hereditary Cancer

The genes you inherit from your parents can raise your risk for some kinds of cancer. All cancers are caused by mutations in your cells — most of the time those mutations happen simply because of aging, or because of lifestyle choices like smoking.

Sometimes, though, in about 5%-10% of cancers, the mutations are handed down through families. If you have one of these inherited mutations, you can minimize your cancer risk by following established health care guidelines and taking a proactive approach to your health. The genetic counseling program at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center and our Hereditary Cancer Clinic can help to guide you in your health care decisions.

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You know you're in good hands at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. Here, you have access to the latest innovations in cancer treatment, including clinical trials, advanced surgical techniques, support services and survivorship planning. You can rest easy knowing we hold national rankings for cancer care and take a leadership role in cancer research and prevention.

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Genetic counseling and testing

Having an inherited mutation that increases your risk of cancer does not automatically mean that you will get cancer. Preventive measures and targeted screenings can help you to manage your risk. The genetics team at Hollings is here to help you.

The first step in determining your level of risk is genetic counseling and testing. Genetic counselors at Hollings are masters-trained and certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling to help you decide if genetic testing is right for you.

Our genetic counselors are available for consultations if you have cancer, if you had cancer but are in remission or if you have a family member previously diagnosed with cancer. Our experienced genetic counseling team can provide recommendations for ongoing surveillance based on your results.

To make an appointment with our genetic counselors, call 843-792-0745.

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Genetic counseling at Hollings

Our certified genetic counselors can review your family history of cancer and help you to assess testing options.

Genetic Counseling

Hereditary Cancer Clinic

If genetic testing at Hollings reveals an inherited mutation that could lead to cancer, or if you have recently learned you have an inherited mutation through genetic counseling and testing elsewhere, you will be referred to the Hereditary Cancer Clinic.

The Hollings Hereditary Cancer Clinic is one of the first centers in the United States that focuses on working with people at risk of hereditary cancer. The Hereditary Cancer Clinic provides a central location where patients with mutations for any type of hereditary cancer can get counseling, testing, screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

To make an appointment with the Hereditary Cancer Clinic, call 843-792-0745.

Hereditary Cancer Clinic

The Hereditary Cancer Clinic at Hollings is dedicated to helping people with mutations in cancer-causing genes.

Learn about the clinic

What is hereditary cancer?

Hereditary cancers are caused by genetic changes, or mutations, that are passed down through families. Cancers that tend to be hereditary include breast, ovarian, melanoma (a type of skin cancer), pancreatic, and prostate. Some mutations can cause patterns of certain types of cancers that run in families. These are called family cancer syndromes.

Family Cancer Syndromes

Some inherited mutations can cause family patterns of cancer. For example, a woman whose two sisters both developed breast cancer at an early age (35 and 41 years old) who also has an aunt with ovarian cancer is likely to have an amplified cancer risk.

If a hereditary cancer pattern is found, genetic testing can help family members know if they are also at high risk for developing cancer. Genetic testing is usually recommended for any blood relative of a person for whom genetic testing shows a mutation. Examples of family cancer syndromes include:

  • Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer syndrome (BRCA1, BRCA2, and other genes).
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome (TP53).
  • Cowden syndrome (PTEN).
  • Lynch syndrome (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, EPCAM).

It was actually a relief because it made sense. It didn’t give me anxiety to know I had this mutation. It put the ball in my court to do what I need to do.

Mary Katherine Melroy, genetic counseling patient, whose mother had breast cancer

Mary Katherine's story
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Advanced Techniques

Genetic counselor Libby Malphrus is happy to see Hollings' genetic program growing. Photo by Josh Birch

We use state-of-the-art technology and procedures to determine your unique risk for all types of inherited cancers and develop a treatment plan.  

Learn about your options

Common Questions

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We answer common questions about hereditary cancer risk factors, hereditary cancer gene mutations and inheriting cancers across different generations.

Get answers to your questions


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