Strong family history of cancer, not sure what to do

Hi there,
The maternal side of my family has been plagued with cancer - my grandmother died of breast cancer, aged 35, my mother has just finished chemo for ovarian cancer aged 48, and my aunt has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, aged 46. My mum has been fantastic through her treatment (and through the months of living with an A-Level student!) and my aunt is tackling her chemo with her usual ‘it could be worse’ attitude, but in the middle of all this, I’m wondering what this means for me.
My mum’s consultant recently had an appointment with me and said that there’s a 95% chance of me getting breast or ovarian cancer and a 35% chance of it being fatal. Although I’m only 18 and I know that cancer in younger women is unusual, with all the family cancer cases being in under 50s it makes me feel really scared that my life is being cut short. I feel like I can’t talk to my family about it - my uncle said I was attention-seeking - and so I feel really alone with it. I don’t want to be selfish because it’s not a problem I’m having to tackle yet (I hope) but it’s really scary.
I’m wondering if the best option is just to look at surgery and the possibility of a masectomy and a hysterectomy, only I don’t want to lose my chance of having children. I know this isn’t a sure fire way to prevent the cancer but it might reduce the chances.
If someone could just reply and give some advice or anything I’d be so grateful. I don’t have anyone to discuss it with because the consultant and my dad say it isn’t a problem yet so why worry about it (prevention is better than cure?) and the rest of my family think I’m being selfish and not caring about my mum’s position (which I do, I’m so proud of her). It’s the type of thing that I’m beginning to lose sleep over and it’s scaring me

Hi HEdmunds and welcome to the BCC forums

I am sorry to read that you are so worried, you do have a lot of concerns and I am sure that your fellow users will be able to help and support you

Please also feel free to contact our team of nurses via the helpline or ‘Ask the Nurse’ service for further information and support, lines are open weekdays 9-5 and Saturdays 10-2 on 0808 800 6000, here’s the link to the ATN service:

You may also find the BCC ‘Breast cancer in families’ information helpful and here’s the link:

Take care
Lucy BCC

Being told at the age of 18 that you have a 95% chance of developing BC is a real facer… and to be supporting two members of your immediate family who are going through it must really hit the reality of that statistic hard home. You most certainly are not being selfish or attention seeking. It may be very easy for the men to be thinking that… but they’re not being told that there’s an almost inevitability of it happening to them!

My heart goes out to you… I know that those close to me find it very hard accepting and dealing with what’s happening to me and you have the added stress of knowing that you have to consider the very real reality of it happening to you too. There must be support and advice out there for young women in your position. Did the consultant direct you to any help where you could discuss your options and/or monitor your health?

Hugs xxx

Hi HEdmunds, have you had genetic testing?, if you haven’t then I’m a bit surprised at your mums consultant telling you those statistics because unless you’v had a genetic test then no one knows your chances of getting BC or ovarian cancer. I know you have a strong family history but that doesn’t automatically mean you carry a gene or that you will get cancer. It must be so hard for you what with your mum and aunt having cancer and the added worry about your own future chances of developing it. Please speak to your GP they can arrange for you to see a genetic counsellor and talk about your personal risk and future options and testing. Heres a bit of information on risk and genetic testing. Wishing you and you mum and aunt all the best xx

Bless you, personally for me I would rather know where I stand. I am now 43 but had breast cancer at 31. Very young. My mum developed breast cancer 6 years after me aged 61 and my sister now has it at aged 41. My sister and I were both tested for the gene and we have both got BRCA1. This means an increased risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. I have decided to have a double mastectomy and removal of ovaries. I don’t have children. My sister is also going to have the same. She has a daughter who is 10 and one day she will also be tested for the gene.

All I can say is that having gone through cancer, knowing I now have this gene, means I can take back some of the control. I would rather know where I stand so that I can make informed decisions rather than decisions being made for me.

You are young but you need to do what you feel is the right thing for you. You were told you had a high risk of getting breast cancer. Have you been tested for the gene? If not ask for a referral to your local genetics lab. You can then find out your exact risk and make informed choices.

Good luck to you. Message if you need to know anymore. Teresa :slight_smile:

Thank you everyone for replying
My consultant has come back and I have the BRCA 1 gene which has been genuinely gutting. It really does feel like someone has just announced that my life is ending my the time I’m 50. I know this seems a little melodramatic at the best of times, but it is such a knock to my confidence.
My consultant has given me 3 options but more regular screenings seems to be sitting on a time bomb, I’ve been warned that the drugs are really aggressive, so it seems that my only option is to have everything lopped off. Slightly gutting to say the least.
I can’t talk to my mum about it because I never, ever discuss things like this with her (don’t ask why), so I am entirely alone emotionally. I can’t face the thought of never having a family, or finding someone who can overlook scars and a flat chest before I’m 30 (that amazingly old age!) but I can’t bear to sit and do nothing. I know that cancer research is improving so much and scientists are doing such a great job, but I doubt that this will be early enough, so I’m not sure what to do. My consultant is telling me that the ‘shorter term’ solution is a double mastectomy and hysterectomy, although if I want to stomach the medication, I can.
I’m so stuck and confused :frowning: