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Fighting hereditary breast and ovarian cancer
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Information & Research

If you're reading this, you're probably worried about your risk for cancer. Whether you're just beginning to explore this issue or you're further along in your journey, this page is addressed to you. Thinking about cancer or dealing with cancer risk can be scary or overwhelming, but we believe that receiving information and resources is comforting, empowering, and even lifesaving.


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FORCE was founded on the principle that no one should face hereditary cancer alone. As a twelve year survivor of hereditary breast cancer, I know that confronting cancer risk can be a complex, confusing, and highly individual journey. Everyone’s path is slightly different because there are no guaranteed prevention, screening, or treatment options. FORCE does not have definitive answers or medical solutions -- unfortunately, no one does at this time -- but we can help you navigate these uncharted waters by equipping you with resources, information, and support.

As you navigate this site, take time to digest the information and determine what it means for you. Feel free to print out pages and share them with your health care team. Check out our page of FORCE programs for more information, support, or resources.

Sue Friedman
Sue Friedman
Executive Director

Understanding your Risk

Understanding your Risk

Every woman is at some risk for breast and ovarian cancer. However, the exact risk for each person is different because of many factors including age, reproductive history, lifestyle, and genetics. You can learn more about cancer risk assessment and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risks by visiting our pages on these topics.

Although most cancer is not considered to be hereditary, there are families in which the incidence of cancer is very high. The members of these families may carry a change in their DNA that makes them more susceptible to cancer. If these changes (called mutations) are hereditary, they can be passed on to the next generation. To learn more about hereditary cancer risk, we encourage you to visit our hereditary cancer and cancer genetics section.

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Genetics Specialists

If you believe that breast or ovarian cancer runs in your family, you may want to contact a board-certified cancer genetic counselor, geneticist, or equally-qualified health care provider. These health care professionals can help determine your risk for hereditary cancer. Although they cannot tell you whether you will or won’t get cancer, these experts can calculate a statistical range of your risk for certain cancers.

There are several ways to contact a qualified genetics expert. Visit our page on genetic counseling for more information. You can ask general questions of a board-certified genetic counselor by calling our "Ask-A-Counselor" feature on our toll-free helpline at:

866-288-7475, ext 704

If you leave a message, a board-certified genetic counselor will call back within two working days.

The good news is that, although we are all at some risk for cancer, for most of us the risk is lower than we think.

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Genetic Testing

You've probably heard about genetic tests to determine whether you carry one of the mutations that increase your risk for breast or ovarian cancer. These are simple tests on blood or other samples, but interpretation of the results and what they mean for your health can be very complex. The best way to learn about the intricacies of genetic testing is by speaking with a specially-trained cancer genetics expert. For more information on genetic testing, visit our page on genetic testing.

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Sharing genetic risk information with family members

One of the unique aspects of hereditary cancer is that risk can run in families. Hereditary cancer risk can be passed down from the mother or the father to sons or daughters. If you need information on how to discuss genetic counseling and testing with family members, visit our page on family history.

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Genetic information, privacy & discrimination

Perhaps you’ve heard there are concerns about genetic discrimination by insurance companies or employers. In May, 2008 the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), a federal law prohibiting discrimination by health insurance companies and employers was passed and signed into law. The provisions went into effect in 2009. For more information, please visit our page on privacy and discrimination concerns.

Although issues of genetic discrimination are real, there have been few published cases of genetic discrimination based on BRCA genetic testing. As with all aspects of genetic testing, each individual must weigh the risk and fear of genetic discrimination against the possible benefits of the test.

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Exploring your Options

If you have already had genetic counseling and learned that you are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer, you can find out more about your options for managing your cancer risk in our risk management section.

The general categories for risk management include surveillance, chemoprevention, and surgery. Researchers periodically conduct clinical trials in early detection or prevention for high-risk women. Our clinical trials and research page includes links to studies that are currently being conducted in these areas.

We also have a gallery of post-mastectomy and reconstruction photos that have been submitted by our members.

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Finding Support

Wherever you are in the process of determining your cancer risk or risk management options, there is a good chance that you can find others in your situation within our Support and Community sections.

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Need More Information?

Can't find the information you are looking? FORCE has a wealth of information and resources. Visit our page of Frequently Asked Questions on topics surrounding hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Please visit our site map, try our search function, and check out our list of FORCE programs. If you still can't find what you are looking for, you can email us at: info@facingourrisk.org and we can help you find resources in your area.


Disclaimer: Health links are made available for educational purposes only. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice. All health information should be discussed with your health care provider. Please read our full disclaimer for more information.

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