Change Your Family’s Story
With the diagnosis of an inherited cancer condition, many families feel they finally have an answer for the patter of cancer they have known about: this knowledge can be a gift. This type of knowledge gives you and loved ones the opportunity to be proactive and make decisions that can improve health long-term by getting the proper screenings and timely surveillance.
Informing your relatives about the presence of this condition in your family can bring mixed reactions for different relatives, but remember, this knowledge may help prevent cancers in your relatives, but only if they know about it.
Your immediate and extended family members need to know:
- That genetic testing found a gene change, called a mutation, which is linked with an increased chance for specific cancers.
- The name of the inherited condition discovered in the family.
- That this condition is likely to be present in other family members and that there is a test that can determine if they have it.
- That there are cancer prevention strategies available for those at increased risk.
- They can meet with a genetic professional to get information to make their own decision about whether and when to have testing. (They will need a copy of the test results.)
You need to choose how to inform relatives about this news. You may want to tell close relatives in-person, or by phone. An email or letter may be appropriate for more distant relatives. Many times a genetic counselor can also provide a letter to share with relatives.
If you have a genetic condition, your children may have also inherited this condition. If their care would not change in childhood, then genetic testing is delayed until they are adults and they are old enough to make the decision for themselves. There are a few hereditary colon cancer conditions (such as FAP), however, that would lead to different care for children; genetic testing is then offered earlier.
The knowledge of inherited risk can lead to better screening and prevention, which saves lives, which changes your family’s story.
This information is presented through a partnership of the Colon Cancer Coalition and the Minnesota Genetic Counselors Association (MNGCA).
Information on these pages is provided for educational purposes only. Consult your own physician before making any medical decisions.