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Understanding BRCA & HBOC > Hereditary Cancer > Talking With Your Family

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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.


Families share more than genes, physical features and medical traits. Other common elements—backgrounds, relationships, and dynamics—sometimes affect communication between family members.

In some families, cancer, breasts and ovaries are considered very private matters never to be discussed. Cancer and other illnesses are often associated with a stigma in our society. Some family members may be superstitious about discussing cancer, believing that may invite the disease and make it more likely to happen. This lack of communication can impede sharing of critically important health information between relatives.Despite these challenges, it is important to share medical information with relatives. Cancer and many other diseases can have a hereditary component. Screening or risk-management recommendations are different for people who are considered “high risk” due to a family history.

The best way to discuss health information is individual and depends on your relationship with relatives. Here are some tips for sharing:

  • Be sensitive to family members’ situations and feelings.
  • Give relatives the names of genetics specialists in their area to ensure that they receive up-to-date information.
  • Avoid pressuring relatives to make a particular decision.
  • Respect their right to gather information from experts and make their own informed decisions.
  • Prepare for your conversation ahead of time by writing it down what you want to tell them. FORCE has a printable page for sharing information with relatives.

FORCE:Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered