Genetics and Cancer

Most cancers occur sporadically, meaning they are thought to be related to chance, aging, or environmental factors. However, approximately 5-10% of all cancers are hereditary, meaning that they are caused by an inherited gene mutation that can run in a family. For example, mutations (or changes) in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes cause an increased risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers, and can be passed down from either side of a family.

Not everyone who has a personal or family history of cancer needs to have genetic testing. But if a family has certain risk factors for a hereditary cause of cancer, genetic testing should be considered. Genetic testing is helpful to identify family members at increased risk for cancer and can help them make a personalized plan for cancer treatment, screening and prevention.

In general, genetic counseling and risk assessment should be considered if someone has a personal or family history of any of the following:

  • Multiple close family members with cancer, especially the same type of cancer
  • Cancer at a young age (age 50 and younger)

  • Cancers that have a stronger genetic risk (for example, ovarian cancer or male breast cancer)

  • Multiple separate cancers in one individual

  • A finding that is linked to hereditary cancer risk (such as many colon polyps)

  • A known genetic mutation in the family (in one or more family members who had genetic testing)

  • Member of an ethnic group at higher risk for inherited gene mutations (i.e. Ashkenazi Jewish)

Genetics is a quickly evolving field. Even if you or a family member had genetic testing in the past, you may now consider more comprehensive testing.

Additional Information About Genetics and Specific Cancers

Piedmont Cancer Genetics Program

We offer genetic counseling for individuals and families related to possible inherited cancer risk. Piedmont’s genetics team has specialized training in genetics and interpretation of genetic test results. During your genetic counseling appointment, your genetic counselor or genetics nurse will review your family history of cancer, provide risk assessment, discuss genetic testing options, and help you decide if testing is right for you and your family. Not everyone who has genetic counseling decides to have genetic testing. Genetic test results do not always give you clear answers. After coordinating testing, your genetics provider will help interpret your test results and discuss next steps for you and your family members.

Genetic risk assessment or testing can lead to changes in your medical management, such as increased screening or consideration of risk-reducing options. Sometimes genetic test results can help you and your doctors determine what treatment plans to pursue, or may provide reassurance about cancer risk in the family. For answers to frequently asked questions, click the link below.

Genetic Counseling & Testing FAQs

For Providers: To refer a patient to Piedmont’s Cancer Genetics Program, please download, complete, and send in the form below.

Genetic Counseling Referral Form

Contact a Genetic Counselor

If you have a personal or family history of cancer, ask your doctor or contact our genetics team to find out if genetic testing is right for you or a family member.

Phone: 404-425-7300 or 478-464-1646
Genetic Counselors: 

  • Amanda Eppolito, MS, CGC

  • Brittany Hodge, MMSc, CGC

  • Jordan Hunter, MS, CGC

  • Kia Hutchins, MMSc, CGC

  • Sunaina Kapur, MMSc, CGC

  • Lani Kesterson, MS, MS

  • Molly Klein, MS, CGC

  • Emily Martin, MS, CGC

  • Camille Miller, MS

Genetic Counseling News and Updates


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