Get Updates

No one should face hereditary cancer alone.

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 lifesaving.

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

| More

Toggle Menu

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.

A genetics expert can help you determine which blood relatives may be at risk for hereditary cancer or for carrying an inherited mutation. 

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. Privacy laws make it difficult for your health care providers to share your medical information with your relatives. Therefore, your sharing of medical information with your family may be their only source of life-saving information.

You can prepare for your conversation ahead of time by writing down what you want to tell them. FORCE has a worksheet, family 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. 

updated 11/20/15

FORCE:Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered