Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Family Health History

mother and daughters

If you are a woman with a family health history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may be more likely to get these cancers yourself. Collecting your family health history of breast, ovarian, and other cancers and sharing this information with your doctor can help you find out if you’re at higher risk. If you have had breast, ovarian, or other cancers, make sure that your family members know about your diagnosis.

Your doctor might consider your family health history in deciding when you should start mammography screening for breast cancer. If you are a woman with a parent, sibling, or child with breast cancer, you are at higher risk for breast cancer. Based on current recommendations, you should consider talking to your doctor about starting mammography screening in your 40s. In some cases, your doctor might recommend that you have genetic counseling, and a genetic counselor might recommend genetic testing based on your family health history. Breast, ovarian, and other cancers are sometimes caused by inherited mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, and other genes. The genetic counselor can help determine which genetic mutations you should be tested for, based on your personal and family health history of cancer, ancestry, and other factors.

When collecting your family health history:

  • Include your parents, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews
  • List any cancers that each relative had and at what age he or she was diagnosed. For relatives who have died, list age and cause of death.
  • Remember that breast and ovarian cancer risk doesn’t just come from your mother’s side of the family—your father’s relatives with breast, ovarian, and other cancers matter, too!
  • Update your family health history on a regular basis and let your doctor know about any new cases of breast, ovarian, or other cancer.

If you are concerned about your personal or family health history of breast, ovarian, or other cancer, talk to your doctor. Whether or not you have a family health history of breast or ovarian cancer, you can take steps to help lower your risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Learn more about family health history and the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and genetic counseling for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.