Talking about cancer, especially about a history of cancer in the family, can be difficult. Hopefully the information here will make it easier.


Know Your Family's Cancer History

Talking openly about health history with your family is important. Documenting that information, especially if there is a family history of cancer, can be life-saving.

Click Here to Download the Family Health/Cancer Pedigree PDF

If there's a family history of cancer someone has to care enough to become educated enough about any hereditary cancer risks and then have the courage to speak up and share that knowledge with the family. Sounds simple, but it’s not. In fact, talking about cancer, and specifically about a history of cancer in the family, can be so difficult for some families.

Being aware of a family history of cancer can provide important information that you and your physician can use to determine if you’re a candidate for genetic testing, more frequent screenings, and/or other preventive measures.

There have been more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes discovered so far. Many of the cancers associated with these syndromes can be prevented.

To get started, contact your parents or siblings to find out what they know about cancer in the family. Then branch out and talk to other living members of the family. Then contact grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Remember, if you’re related by blood, you are connected by genes. And if there are any deceased relatives, be sure to research the cause of death and the age at which they died.

If there's a history of cancer be sure to include as much detail about any family member’s diagnosis as possible. And remember to be your own medical advocate. Do not let the doctor brush off your concerns.

Talking openly about cancer, while not always easy, will not kill you or your relatives. However, to be bluntly honest, ignoring a cancer threat to you or a loved one can.


Resources for Talking to your Family about Hereditary Cancer

Sharing Medical Information with Relatives
If possible, the following family medical information should be collected and shared with close relatives:

    -- family members who were diagnosed with cancer
    -- age at diagnosis
    -- type of cancer, including pathology results, if available

    -- genetic test results

Talking to Your Family About Your BRCA1 or BRCA2 Mutation
Learn how to share test results, letters from your doctor or genetic counselor, or other information you received about your mutation with your family. Giving family members information about your specific genetic mutation helps their healthcare providers know exactly which test to use.

How to Share Genetic Test Results With Family
When you share genetic test results about hereditary cancers, your family members need to know at least these 2 important details to share with their health care providers or genetic counselors:

    -- The name of the specific gene where the mutation was found, like BRCA2
   -- The specific mutation in the gene, like 187delAG in BRCA1

Talking to Your Family about Your Lynch Syndrome Diagnosis
Why talk to my family?

Your family members can benefit from knowing about your diagnosis of Lynch syndrome.  Talk to your family members about Lynch syndrome, and tell them Lynch syndrome is passed through families... Read more...

All in the Family: The Importance of Talking About Hereditary Cancer
The key is communicating information with not just your daughter or son, but also extended family such as an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or grandchild, according to Megan Myers, M.S., a genetic counselor from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).


Resources with videos:


Encouraging Family Conversations About Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer - YouTube Video Project

Bring Your Brave: Talking About Your Family History of Cancer



Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome
Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome is an inherited cancer-predisposition syndrome. Affected individuals have a significantly greater risk of developing certain cancers, particularly breast cancer, in both men and women, and ovarian cancer in women. Many affected individuals tend to develop cancer earlier in life as well, usually before the age of 50.

Short Hereditary Cancer Syndrome Video

This site was created by Mark A. Hicks, artist, illustrator and hereditary cancer awareness and prevention advocate. To learn more go to his main blog,