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Talking With Your Family

Learn about genes and cancer, signs of hereditary cancer, genetic counseling, types of genetic tests and what results mean for you and your family.

Communicating with family

Because hereditary cancer runs in families, it is important to exchange medical information with your relatives. Your relatives may have important information about your family's history of cancer. Similarly, your medical records or genetic test results may provide clues to help your relatives make medical decisions.

Speaking with relatives

You can prepare for your conversation with relatives ahead of time by writing down what you want to tell them. FORCE has a worksheetfamily medical history chart and a letter template to help you share genetic information with a relative. You can also use our page on finding a genetics expert to help them find a qualified expert in their area. 

Your relatives may have different views than you do about health or cancer. In some families, cancer, especially breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer are considered very private matters never to be discussed. Some family members may be superstitious about discussing cancer, believing that may invite the disease and make it more likely to happen.

Family alliances, beliefs about protecting children, and privacy concerns may all affect your ability to share health information with relatives. 

It's important to take these dynamics into consideration when speaking about the cancer in your family. Despite these challenges, it is important to exchange medical information with relatives. Privacy laws make it difficult for health care providers to share their patients' medical information with anyone else. Family members need to communicate with each other and share this life-saving information. It may be helpful to employ the assistance of members of the family have collected genealogy information and those members who are in close touch with many relatives.  

Updated 08/11/17

 

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