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Family cancer clinics


Family cancer clinics provide a service for people with a family history of cancer and their health professionals. The service is offered to any family members, whether or not they have been diagnosed with cancer. After assessing detailed information about a family history of cancer, these clinics provide genetic counselling including:

  • information about a person’s risk of developing cancer based on the family history and other relevant factors
  • advice about strategies that reduce the risk of cancer
  • information about early detection of cancer
  • an estimate of the likelihood of carrying an inherited mutation in a cancer predisposing gene
  • if appropriate, the offer of genetic testing for the family

When should I refer to a family cancer clinic?

Referral to a family cancer clinic should be considered when:

  • a woman’s family has an unusual pattern of early onset cancer i.e. breast or ovarian cancer occurring at a young age
  • a woman has multiple relatives affected by breast cancer (male or female) or invasive epithelial ovarian cancer
  • a woman has at least one relative affected by both breast cancer and invasive epithelial ovarian cancer
  • a woman has relatives affected with bilateral breast cancer, especially at a younger age (<50)
  • a woman with a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer indicates that she is of Jewish descent

General practitioner referral guidelines for cancer genetics assessment can be found here.

Other resources for GPs

Familial cancer clinics are not the only place that can provide appropriate advice regarding the risk assessment and management of women at risk of breast or ovarian cancer. For women who have been assessed as being in the moderately increased risk category (Category 2) or the potentially high risk category (Category 3) you may consider referral to a breast surgeon or gynaecological oncologist.

Finding a family cancer clinic

If you would like to see a list of family cancer clinics in Australia to which you can refer women for genetic counselling, one can be found on the Centre for Genetic Education’s website

Please note: this link is to an external site maintained by the Centre for Genetics Education. Cancer Australia is not responsible for the content of the listing. Cancer Australia does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information provided in the listing.

The following section may be useful for women who are being referred to a family cancer clinic. It provides a list of questions that women can ask.

Questions you might like to ask about genetic testing

  • What risk group am I in?
  • What are the chances that an inherited gene fault is involved in the cancer in my family?
  • What are my chances of having inherited such a gene fault?
  • What is involved in having a genetic test?
  • Who should be tested first?
  • What does the test look for?
  • How long will it take?
  • How much will the test cost?
  • What does it mean for me if no genetic fault is found in my family i.e. the testing for my family is ‘inconclusive’?
  • What does it mean for me if a genetic fault is found in my family?
  • What does it mean for me if I am found to have a gene fault that causes a high risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer?
  • Are there ways to reduce the risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer?
  • Can I still get health insurance if I am shown to have a gene fault?
  • Can I still get life insurance if I am shown to have a gene fault?
  • Can I still get life insurance if any of my relatives are shown to have a gene fault?
  • Do I have to tell the insurance company about my results?
  • Should I tell my relatives about my genetic test results?
  • If I have a genetic fault, should other members of my family also have genetic testing?
  • If I have a genetic fault, when should my children have genetic testing?

*In July 2011, National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC) amalgamated with Cancer Australia to form a single national agency, Cancer Australia, to provide leadership in cancer control and improve outcomes for Australians affected by cancer.