Overview

Cancer Genetics

The goal of cancer genetics is to prevent cancer or, if cancer occurs, to detect it as early as possible by identifying individuals at increased risk.

Northwestern Medicine geneticists provide individualized cancer risk assessment and health management recommendations to individuals and families at increased risk for cancer due to their personal and/or family history of cancer.

Genetic counseling and breast cancer

Genetic counseling brings you information, cancer risk assessment and genetic testing to help you understand your personal and family risk for breast cancer.

Research has shown that two gene mutations, BRCA1 and BRCA2, put carriers at a higher risk of breast cancer. Women who inherit the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have a 56 to 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70. It’s important to note that many women who have a gene mutation never get cancer of any type, and these genes cause only about seven to 10 percent of breast cancers.

A simple blood test can determine whether you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. What you do with that information, however, can be a difficult decision. Counselors are available to discuss the advantages, disadvantages and limitations of testing with you.

Consider talking to a genetic counselor if you:

  • Have breast or ovarian cancer and two or more first-degree relatives (parent, sibling or child) or second-degree relatives (grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew or half-sibling) with either breast or ovarian cancer
  • Have breast and/or ovarian cancer and one first- or second-degree blood relative younger than 45 (or pre-menopausal) with breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer at any age
  • Have breast and/or ovarian cancer develop before age 45 (or pre-menopausal)
  • Have breast and/or ovarian cancer that is bilateral (both sides) or have multiple primary sites of cancer
  • Are a man with breast cancer
  • Have a first- or second-degree blood relative who is documented as being a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene carrier

Conditions we treat

Our physicians provide care for many medical conditions, including:

Treatments and procedures

Our physicians offer a comprehensive array of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and consultation including:

To schedule an appointment for your personalized risk assessment, contact one of the locations below.


Our Cancer Genetics program is a joint service between the Division of Hematology/Oncology and the Division of Clinical Genetics. The goal of our program, which is led by a multidisciplinary team of genetic counselors, medical oncologists and medical geneticists, is to prevent cancer; or, if cancer occurs, to detect it as early as possible by identifying individuals at increased risk.

We provide individualized cancer risk assessment and health management recommendations to individuals and families at increased risk for cancer due to their personal and/or family history of cancer.

Genetics is one of the most exciting frontiers in medicine, and Northwestern Medicine makes it available to you in the western suburbs of Chicago. The board-certified geneticist and licensed genetic counselors at Northwestern Medicine Central Dupage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital offer comprehensive genetic services, including evaluation, counseling and health management related to cancer.