Prioritizing Family Health History

CURE, Women's Cancers, Volume 1, Issue 1

Make sure to prioritize your family health history to understand your risk of cancer.

Family history’s effect on cancer risk wasn’t always a major topic in health care.

Barriers to the discussion included lack of family history details, cost of genetic testing and a full understanding of genetics’ role in cancer development. However, evolving research has shown that history and risk can go hand in hand.

Health care providers are starting conversations with patients, and patients are speaking up among their relatives. Advocacy organizations such as Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, more commonly known as FORCE, have helped bridge the gap and serve as a starting point for women who face hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

More women are also taking steps to discuss genetics with their children. For instance, the book “Proactive Genes,” written by Shannon Pulaski and published by MJH Life Sciences TM, uses age-appropriate language to help children understand their risk, establish healthy lifestyle behaviors and grow into pro- active patients.

Decades ago, some families relied solely on experts in the genetics field to tell them if they carried certain mutations, such as in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, that put them at higher risk of cancer. Described as “the father of hereditary cancer detection and prevention,” Dr. Henry Lynch founded and directed the Hereditary Cancer Center at Creighton University, which opened in 1984, and studied thousands of families to track the links between genetics and cancer.

Decades later, at least two women whose families were part of his research found flaws, each received a misdiagnosis for the BRCA gene. One was told she was BRCA1 positive but was really negative; the other was told she was BRCA2 negative when in fact she was positive. Within these pages, both women describe how they learned about the mistake and the steps they are taking to regain control of their health.

This special issue of CURE® also delves into the basics of uterine sarcoma, a rare cancer that occurs in about 1,200 women each year in the United States. We also share the innovative research in biological advancements that are helping patients with cervical cancer and explain how palliative care can reduce the severity of the disease’s physical and psychological symptoms.

Also inside: the power of PARP inhibitors, immunotherapy for cervical cancer and women’s willingness to take on treatment side effects.

As always, thank you for reading.