Talking About Your Family History of Cancer

Photo of three women: a young girl with her mother and grandmother

Having open conversations about your family history of cancer can help you and your family members understand your risk for hereditary cancer and make a plan to manage it.

Let’s Talk: Sharing Info About Your Family Cancer Risk is an interactive tool to help you learn ways to talk about cancer risk with your family members.

Tips for Talking with Your Family About Your Increased Risk for Breast Cancer

If you are the first person in your family to do genetic counseling and testing and learn that you carry a harmful gene change in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that raises your risk for breast, ovarian, and other cancers, this information can affect the health of other family members, women and men. Since these gene changes are passed down from a parent, other people in your family may also have the gene change—so it’s important to share the information you learned from genetic counseling and testing with family members so they can make decisions for their own health. Watch these videos for advice on how to make these conversations easier from young women who were the first in their families to learn about their risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

The Importance of Sharing Your BRCA Genetic Test Results with Family

Hear how women who have tested positive for harmful changes in their BRCA genes have dealt with being the first in their families to learn about their high risk for breast cancer. Watch as they talk about the importance of sharing their genetic test results with their family members whose health may also be affected by this information.

Preparing for a Family Conversation About Your Breast Cancer Risk

After testing positive for harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene changes that raise their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, these women had to prepare to tell family members whose health may also be affected by this information. Hear about the fears they had about these conversations and how they prepared to inform their families.

How to Start the Conversation About BRCA Genetic Test Results with Family Members

Being the first in your family to learn that you have harmful genetic changes that raise your risk of breast, ovarian, and other cancers, can be challenging because you are also in the position of having to tell your family about their own potential risk. Find out how these women started the discussion about the cancers that run in their families with family members that might have the same increased risk.

The Positive Effects of Sharing Your BRCA Genetic Test Results with Family Members

When these women learned they carried a harmful change in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that was passed down in their families, they knew that this information could affect the health of some family members. The conversations they started about their hereditary cancer risk positively affected the choices some of their family members made for their own health – and led to one family member’s early breast cancer diagnosis.

Advice on Sharing Your BRCA Genetic Test Results with Family Members

Remember that you’re not alone in facing tough conversations about the cancers that run in your family, and you can ask for support from trusted family members or learn from others who have been in your place.

Let’s Talk About Breast Cancer Risk

Watch these stories from women and men affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Learn about their conversations with family members about their family history of cancer and hear the perspective of two health care providers.

Finding Strength Through Connection

At 34 years old, Kenneth discovered he had breast cancer. It took an emotional toll on him, but he found strength by connecting with others.

Taking Responsibility

As a neurosurgeon, Don knew everything in life and in surgery is all risk versus benefit. After discovering his family history of breast cancer, he took responsibility for his own health by getting tested and later having an elective mastectomy.

Asking the Next Question

As an oncologist, Dr. Alter treats patients with cancer of different varieties. He counsels patients with genetic predispositions for cancer by asking a series of questions to determine their family history.

Pointing Patients in the Right Direction

As a physician assistant, Shira works with women at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives when they are facing breast cancer. She points her patients in the right direction by encouraging them to meet with genetic counselors and take control over their own health.

Accepting Support

Brianna was just five years old when her mother died of breast cancer. While still in her teens, she learned how to navigate her own encounter with the disease, which also meant accepting support from her boyfriend Larry during her preventative mastectomy.

Facing Breast Cancer Together

While most fathers and daughters bond over things like dancing or fishing or basketball, Vanessa and her father Arnaldo grew closer when they faced breast cancer treatment together.

Trusting Your Doctor

Understanding your family history of breast cancer and your own risk can take an emotional toll. Finding a doctor that she trusted empowered Allison to face her risk and be proactive about her health.

Finding the Courage

Breast cancer has affected three generations of women in Ashley’s family. Finding the courage to see a doctor and learn more about her own risk for breast cancer was the first step in taking control of her health.

Having the Conversation

When Dana told her kids that she had breast cancer she knew first-hand how they might feel. She shares her plans to continue the conversation about their family history of breast cancer as her kids grow older.

Taking Control

Talking about her family history of breast cancer was something Eli’s family didn’t do. When she learned about her own breast cancer risk, she knew it was time to change that.

Your Risk at a Young Age

Erika was only 28 years old when she learned she had a BRCA gene mutation that raised her risk for breast cancer. Facing your breast cancer risk when you are young and single can be isolating. Here’s her story.

Feeling Lucky

When Hannah found a lump in her breast she had to face a fear she always had. Her diagnosis led to family discussions about the generations of women who have had breast cancer in their family.

Breaking the Cycle

Nearly every woman in Lauren’s family has had breast cancer and she is determined to not let history repeat itself. Learn how she broke the cycle of silence to learn about her breast cancer risk.

Learning from the Past

Lexie was 11 years old when she lost her mom to breast cancer. Now, she knows she has an opportunity that her mom didn’t have – to take steps to manage her breast cancer risk.

Being Black with Breast Cancer

Ricki’s breast cancer diagnosis inspired her to make breast cancer prevention in the Black community her life’s mission. She wants other Black women to talk about their family history and understand their breast cancer risk.

Facing the Elephant in the Room

Tallulah’s family history of breast cancer was never discussed. When she took action to learn her risk for her own health, she set out to change that – for the health of her family members.

StoryCenter: Conversations About Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Photo of three women: a young girl with her mother and grandmother

StoryCenter worked with a group of women across the U.S. to help them create and produce their own family health history stories. Watch the series to get inspiration for how you can start your own family health history conversation.