You may be told you have a high risk of developing a certain type of cancer because:
- you had a genetic test that found an inherited cancer gene
- the pattern of cancer in your family is likely to be caused by an unknown inherited cancer gene.
Even if you think you are prepared for this news, hearing it can come as a shock. Some people feel like they are being told they already have cancer. Others find that knowing the result helps them make choices to reduce their risk.
Living with uncertainty
It is natural to want to know what is likely to happen, so you can plan for your future. Family history and genetic testing only lets us estimate levels of risk. It does not tell us who will definitely get cancer or when they will develop it. You may still have questions that have no clear answers. You may have to find ways to cope with the unknowns (see below).
Having an inherited cancer risk can affect relationships in a family. Genetic tests may show that some family members have a higher risk and others do not. This can make people feel angry or guilty.
Some families find their relationships become stronger. You may feel closer to some relatives or find you can rely on each other more than before.
Many people say that knowing about a higher cancer risk helps them make healthier lifestyle decisions for their whole family. We have more information about cancer risk and living a healthy lifestyle.
If you are struggling to cope with a high risk of cancer, talking about your feelings and worries may help. You can get support from your genetics specialist or your family and friends. You can also talk to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00, or share your thoughts with members of our Online Community.