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I Have a Family History of Cancer -- Now What?

By EmpowHER January 18, 2013 - 7:03am
Sponsored By Myriad

If you have a family history of cancer you may be a good candidate for genetic testing for hereditary cancer. But now that you’ve identified a potential risk, what comes next?

The first step is to make an appointment with your health care provider. It's important to discuss the latest information about inherited cancer risks, available genetic testing and options for people known to be at a higher than normal risk of developing cancer due to genetic predisposition.

If you don’t already have a health care provider, you may be able to find one in your area at http://www.myriadtests.com/finddoc.php/

During your appointment, you’ll sit down with a qualified health care provider, often a genetic counselor, to reconstruct your family tree. Genetic counselors are professionals who are specially trained to advise people like you about the risks and benefits of genetic testing. Genetic counselors will guide you through the testing process and will help interpret the test results.

Before your test, your health care provider will help determine whether or not the cancer within your family is inherited. Hereditary cancer syndromes follow specific patterns that aren’t seen in other cancer types.

Your healthcare provider will assess your future individual cancer risk and will help you decide which type of test is right for you.

He or she will also discuss your individualized prevention strategies, and how to talk about genetic information and test results with other family members. This may help them to also potentially live without the anxiety or stress that cancer can bring.

Before your appointment you will need to know health information about relatives on each side of your family tree and be prepared to answer questions.

MySupport360 is a personalized resource website with easy to use tools and tips to help guide your screening journey. There you can print out a list of questions you’ll likely be asked by your healthcare provider or genetic counselor during your appointment. You can also keep track of your doctor visits with the Appointment Calendar tool. MySupport360 also answers questions you might have about the process and offers encouragement along the way.

Genetic testing can help you and your family better understand the cause of hereditary cancer, why some family members have been diagnosed so young, your risk of developing cancer in the future and whether or not you can pass the gene on to your children.

Taking action now can empower you with a cancer risk reduction plan, guide treatment decisions and assess risk of disease progression and recurrence. Being tested can also potentially help you, and your family, stay cancer-free.

Reviewed on December 7, 2012
by Maryann Gromisch, RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Article by Lynette Summerill

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