Learn Your Family History of Breast and Ovarian Cancer

At a glance

  • Learning your family history of cancer, from both your mother's and father's sides, can help you know if you have a higher risk for getting breast or ovarian cancer at a young age.
a young woman with her grandmother

Tips for talking with your family

Asking your relatives about their cancer histories can be hard. Here are some tips:

  • Explain that you are trying to create a record of your family's history of cancer to protect your health.
  • Share that you have learned that breast and ovarian cancers can run in families. Women who know they have a family history of these cancers can do things to lower their risk.
  • Invite your family members to respond in a way and at a time that is most comfortable to them.
  • Word your questions carefully, be a good listener, and respect the privacy of others. Begin by asking your family members what they know about cancer in the family in general, and ask personal health questions later. Understand that some relatives may not want to share health information with you or they may not want you to pass on the information to others.
  • Write down what you learn.

My Family Health Portrait: Cancer

CDC's new mobile health app My Family Health Portrait: Cancer helps you collect your family's history of cancer and can help you understand your risk for breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancer. Android users can download the app from Google Play and iOS users can download the app from the App Store.

Lisa: Start the Conversation About Family History of Breast Cancer

Lisa talks about how she realized that having family members with pre-menopausal breast and ovarian cancer meant that she has a higher risk of getting cancer before she turned 45. In this video, she talks about how this affected her as a young mother and why she takes steps to manage her risk. Lisa provides a tip for talking with family members about their history of cancer.