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A: Many parents tested for hereditary cancer predisposition genes worry about how and when to talk to their children about their test results. There are no hard and fast rules, and parents know their children better than anyone, but here are some suggestions based on decades of experience and studies of communication within families about genetic test results.
A: We have been surprised to learn from research on families dealing with hereditary breast/ovarian cancer that many parents tell their children about their genetic test result, even quite young children, and often these conversations take place soon after the testing occurs.
Parents consider these factors when deciding whether or not to share their test results: age, maturity, the emotional state of their child, and the parent's sense of the child's interest in genetic information.
A: That is fine. You may feel your children are too young or that there are too many other things going on in the family to add this discussion to the mix now. You may want to think about a better time to consider talking to your child, for example, when they reach a particular age or after a certain event, like a graduation. This seems to alleviate parents' worries about having what sometimes feels like a "secret." You can always reconsider your plan later and pick a different time to talk with your children.
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Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention
Dana-Farber's Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention offers advanced genetic tests to determine whether individuals are at risk for inherited forms of cancer.