Pass the Pumpkin Pie — and Grandma’s Health History? 

November is Family Health History Month. The holidays are a time to gather with loved ones; yet holiday gatherings can be fraught. Family dynamics can make any conversation tough – and one about family health history can be even more difficult.  

More than half (55%) of respondents to a recent Myriad Genetics Cancer Risk survey of women said that it’s important to know their cancer risk for “peace of mind.” Yet, 20% of women say they don’t talk about health issues in their family.  

Additionally, the survey also found that over 80% of women feel they don’t have enough information about their family’s medical history to adequately understand their cancer risk.  

This has potentially life-threatening consequences. Patients with a family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, or colorectal cancer may have a higher risk for developing these cancers.  

Getting answers to these questions may qualify patients for genetic hereditary cancer testing, which can help people and their clinicians determine if they are at an increased risk of developing specific types of cancer and if they require a change to their medical management plan.  

Family History & BRCA 

The importance of knowing family history is a personal mission of Eliza Lieberman. She created a Tik Tok that explains why her mom’s cancer was a “gift to me.” Watch the video here.  

Eliza’s mom, Katya Lezin, encouraged her daughters to take the Myriad Genetics MyRisk® with RiskScore® test to understand their personal risk of developing cancer.  

Katya is a BRCA1 mutation carrier and a two-time ovarian cancer survivor. When she learned that she may have passed down her mutation to her children, she encouraged them to get hereditary cancer testing. Two of her three children now know they inherited the same BRCA1 mutation as Katya. 

Her daughters say learning about their genetic risk is indeed a positive part of their story because it has allowed them to reclaim control of their journey. They can talk with their doctors to learn when and how to take steps to decrease their risk of developing ovarian and other cancers themselves. 

“I got tested junior year of college and got the call that I was positive. When I got that call there was no panic, there was no crisis. I don’t think there’s any downside to getting tested” said Katya’s daughter, Hannah. “For me knowing that I’m BRCA positive has only made me more prepared for the future.” 

Having the Hard Conversations 

Talking about cancer is never an easy topic, but it is one that’s important to have.  

Breast cancer has impacted Ashley Dedmon’s family since before she was born – three generations of women in her family have been impacted by this disease. Ashley’s great grandmother, grandmother and mother all passed away from breast cancer, Ashley’s mother at only 42. Cancer didn’t stop there: her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.   

Ashley’s hereditary mutation heightened her cancer risk. After taking the MyRisk® Hereditary Cancer Test, she learned she carries the BRCA2 gene mutation, putting her at high risk for breast, ovarian and other cancers. Watch Ashley’s story here 

After her first daughter had successfully weaned from breastfeeding, Ashley consulted with her doctors and came to the decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy, a procedure which could significantly reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. Since then, Ashley’s been living a full and active life and has since given birth to a second daughter. Ashley’s doctors continue to actively monitor her health. 

During the holiday season, we recommend that people take this form along to family gatherings and try to gather family health history by asking as many blood relatives as possible, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers. 

It just might save your life.