Roughly 5% to 10% of cancers result from genetic mutations inherited from a parent. While knowing your family health history can give clues to your personal risk of breast or ovarian cancer, not everyone has access to that information.
If you’re one of the many people who do not know your family health history, there are still steps you can take to be proactive about your health.
Here are a few ways you can care for your health if you have an unknown family health history:
1. Make lifestyle choices that lower cancer risk
No matter your family history (or unknown health history), you can help lower your risk of getting cancer by avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and staying physically active.
Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that up to 67% of cancer deaths can be prevented, and healthy habits can make a difference.
2. Know your body
Be proactive about your health. Monitor your body, do monthly breast self-exams, and regularly visit your trusted healthcare provider to help you detect cancer early.
3. Trust your intuition
When in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider if you notice something new or different. Go get it checked out! You know your body best.
Sometimes you may feel you are in a place where you may not have enough resources. Check out our post on how to find low-cost or free healthcare.
4. Consider genetic counseling
A gene map could show if you have any genes that make you more prone to getting cancer. Keep in mind that testing can only tell you if you have a specific genetic mutation, not if you will get cancer. Also, negative results do not mean you have no risk of getting cancer. Changes over time due to your lifestyle choices or getting older influence gene mutations. Additionally, many cancers cannot be traced to genetics.
If you are interested in genetic testing, talk to your trusted healthcare provider.
5. Remember: Your body, your choice
Your healthcare journey is deeply personal. It is your choice to seek genetic counseling — or not. For many, the choice to seek a genetic counselor feels empowering as the more information they know, the better. Others may feel that they are just not ready to know this information.
There are so many things that we cannot control, but sometimes focusing on the things we can control helps: Have a trusted healthcare provider, go in for routine screenings, and follow a healthy lifestyle. And remember, no matter what you decide, make sure you have all the necessary information to make the decision that is best for you.