Family history and genetics

I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I don’t really have any questions and I’m not looking for how to deal with things. Maybe just support, I really don’t have any ideas.

My daughter has breast cancer. She’s 32 and newly engaged. This came as a complete surprise and she was asked if there was a family history of breast cancer. We knew that my mother in law’s sister died of ovarian cancer and then her daughter died of breast cancer. But that seemed a little remote.

Daughter is tested and found to have a genetic mutation. She had a bilateral mastectomy and will start chemo on Monday. They found cancer in one of her lymph nodes and weren’t able to get all of the tumor so she will have to have radiation after chemo is over.

My husband and I are going to genetic counseling also. I called my mil to get his family history. I find out then that my mil’s mother died of breast cancer at 37, that her older sister had breast cancer at 37, that the other sister died at 37 and her daughter died at 37, all of female cancers.

I ask my husband if he knew that his maternal grandmother died of breast cancer and his oldest aunt (who I’m not sure he’s ever met) and he says no. My husband has since gone back on that statement and said he thinks he knew.

Ok here’s the thing. My daughter called my mil to ask when her sister and her niece passed away and mil never mentioned anything about her other family members.

And my mil kept telling me that my daughter’s cancer could have been environmental or random. I finally got annoyed and said, no she’s been tested, it’s genetic.

The other thing is my mil told us that she had genetic testing and she made it sound like it was recently. But then when I talked to her it sounded like it was in 2004 and the gene mutation my daughter has wasn’t even discovered at that point. So I’m not sure about the testing timing but she does not have the BRCA gene.

My husband says, correctly that his mom is old and all of this is traumatic. But part of me is super annoyed that we never knew any of this. I don’t think it probably would have changed anything.

We feel that daughter’s cancer was discovered early and that her prognosis is good. But there are consequences. Like I said I have no idea what I want from this post except to type it all out. Not something I can really discuss with my husband because he is very defensive of his mom.


You are dealing with a lot of emotions and wow, I think any of us would be in a bit of a tailspin.

Staying on topic, it makes me think about how probably a lot of us don’t have a good family history at hand - until we want to seek it out for a reason and then sometimes it’s too late because elders have passed. Seems like along with photo albums we all need a good family health “album”. Would a family tree help with this?


I’m really sorry and hope that your dd will recover fully.

I agree that your MIL is old and probably is misremembering things or deflecting or feels a little defensive, like she is being blamed for the bad genetics. Also, I’m sure she thinks that by telling you dd about the other people it would scare her, and she thinks she’s being kind by not volunteering the other info.

If she’s like my mom, she’s not terribly sophisticated and may not even understand how it all relates. Many, many years ago, I was trying to get an idea of when key family members had died to gauge my own longevity. She told me her dad died in a car accident at 56. OK, can’t do anything about that. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago I learned that he died in a car accident … because he had a heart attack and crashed! That’s different than hitting a cow, mom.

We are here for you on cc. (((hugs)))


So sorry you’re going through this and best wishes for your daughter as she navigates this.


Thankfully, through research breast cancer is better understood, and treatment has improved dramatically from the days your mil’s relatives died at age 37. Is your daughter being followed by a major cancer center? Best wishes to all during this time. My Mil would also blame everything else besides the gene she passed through no fault of her own.


One of my sisters was BRCA tested after a breast cancer issue. She told the other three of us…and she was told if she tested positive, we all should be tested, and so should all of our kids (male and female). She was BRCA negative so we didn’t test.

So…I guess my only advice would be for everyone to get tested.

@deb922 fingers crossed that your daughter’s treatments are very successful. Fortunately, breast cancer treatments have come a long way.

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So sorry your going through this. Lynch syndrome is usually a genetic gene that most people mainly women but high associated with ovarian and stomach cancers but correlation to breast cancer. Lots of hospitals send their blood to Ambry for this testing. Your daughter should be check for ovarian cancer etc as well. It’s a blood genetic test that they might of already did for lynch. If not then they should.

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Daughter has great support and top notch care. And yes they have been positive how far treatments have come.

She’s had genetic testing through Ambry and her doctor is associated with MD Anderson. That’s what it says on the testing results.

We go for our genetic counseling this week. We will find out more soon and be able to notify any relatives that are affected.

I think my mil handles things by being an ostrich. Maybe it’s her generation, maybe it’s the trauma she’s experienced.

We are very scared but also very optimistic. Thanks for all of the support. Her gene mutation is called the ATM gene and they know very little about it except that there is a higher incident of breast cancer.

It feels good to finally talk about this. Have been busy taking care of daughter and our covid diagnosis this summer so I haven’t had much chance to sort through everything


It’s not just your MIL. My MIL is the great keeper of family secrets. When I was pregnant with my first child, I asked for any family history of anything…and was basically told to mind my own business. DH asked as well. Of course, many years later, we heard about family illnesses and death through the extended family grapevine. Let’s just say…it annoyed me.

@deb922 family first right now.


Deb- big hug.

Ashkenazi Jew here…and so asking about familial breast/colon/ovarian cancer has been a routine part of health screens for years.

A couple of suggestions – get yourself into a support group ASAP. Your local hospital or one of the breast cancer organizations can connect you. You need a safe space to vent.

Let the anger at your MIL go. The support group can help with this. The irritation and anger you are feeling (quite legitimate IMHO) are sapping the energy you need to be there for your D.

Figure out what you need right now to keep it together. Is it a cleaning service every other week so you don’t have to remember to vacuum? Is it planning time to walk or run every morning? Then do the same for your D. Ask her what practical tasks or calendar shifts will help her stay focused on her recovery.

Sending you love…


About Mutations in the ATM Gene | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has some information about the ATM gene mutations.


@deb922 I understand what you and your daughter are going through. Hugs to all as you navigate this road. My family has a similar story-Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at 53; she went through a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. I was next at 35 and went through the same course of treatment. My mother’s sister was next at 53; she has a mastectomy on the one breast, but no other treatment. She did have a recurrence in her early 70’s, so had another mastectomy at that time. Mom’s brother was next at 53, but he had prostate cancer. My bother had prostate cancer at a later age of 63.

I did genetic testing at the time of my cancer diagnosis, and I was BRCA 2 positive. When my aunt was tested, she was negative. My kids were both tested through JScreen and my daughter was part of a breast cancer study in her mid 20’s; both kids were negative. My husband’s mother dies of ovarian in her 40’s, and paternal grandfather and uncle with colon cancer, so my kids were hit with a double wammy of bad genetics. My first cousin’s that are female, have also tested negative, even though their mom or father had breast or prostate cancer. My brother’s oldest daughter tested positive, so once done with having children, she decided to have a double mastectomy.

I would love my mom to test, but there is no reason for her to; I was just curious if she might be BRCA+ also. My theory is that we may all have another variant that is yet to me name, not just BRCA 2. Three siblings at 53 and me at 35; just a flip of the numbers! My first cousins, who are much younger than me, were all afraid they would get it at 35; luckily they have all been spared.

Come here to vent and cry any time. I know this is scary, but it sounds like your daughter is getting great medical care. Be there for her and her fiance; he is going to need support also, and we know men don’t usually know how to ask for that. This is going to be stressful for your daughter, and he may not know how to support her, or maybe he is a fabulous support. This is a family affair, especially at her age. :kissing_heart:



My maternal grandmother passed away when I was a toddler. She had “ female cancer” ( direct quote from my mother). My sister and I asked our mom for more specifics ( several times) and we got shrugged shoulders and no answers. Part of this I believe was a generational thing, years ago cancer especially breast and gynecological cancers were not talked about. A woman I worked with when I was a teen had had b.c. When she was in her thirties ( she was in her 60’s when I met her and lived to be just short of 93) said when she was diagnosed no one would talk to her about it. It as considered a big secret. The reason I’m saying this is that it is a generational thing. Unfortunately there has been a price to all that silence as you know.

Continuing with my prayers and well wishes for your daughter. Hugs to both of you.


Sending your daughter wishes for a straightforward treatment and recovery. Sending you thoughts of support and solidarity–your feelings make total sense.

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Sending good thoughts to your D and your whole family.

I’m so sorry your MIL was secretive. I would be fuming. We had something similar in our family with the “female cancer” secrecy. And even H’s side with a long hx of gastric cancers. Thankfully there were a bunch of nurses in the family that broke the silence but there could have been a lot of advanced screening if people hadn’t buried their heads in the sand.


Hugs to your daughter, you, and the rest of your family. I hope your D’s recovery and treatment go as well as possible. Dealing with cancer is difficult and so many people just can’t talk about it or feel uncomfortable talking about it. Support groups for patients as well as their caregivers can be so helpful.


I just really wanted to send you and your daughter a gentle virtual hug.

Most of the older generation from me (and maybe you? I’m 64) tend to not talk about cancer, mental health, sexuality or other things that my generation and the younger ones talk about freely (thank goodness!!!). I’d still like to shake your in-laws for not just saying the words! Words can save lives!!

My hope is that your dear daughter will not struggle terribly (both physically & emotionally) as she navigates all of this and through a full recovery. Thankful she has youth on her side. Encourage her to talk about all she goes through, allow for tears and and anger, and if she dabbles in art at all to create, create, create! :hibiscus:


Best wishes for good health and strength for your daughter and her whole family. I can’t imagine how hard it must be.

Hugs, @deb22. Your CC family is always here for you what/whenever you feel you need to post. :people_hugging:


I wish your daughter improved health and nothing but happiness moving forward!

Two of my children we have limited genetic information about and we will never know. It is a bit scary sometimes however I don’t think it would change much of anything in regards to medical screenings.

I agree that cancer, especially female cancers were not talked about in our recent past. I feel we are more open as a society overall even in the last 10-20 years.

I have family history of different types of cancer (Hodgkins lymphoma, skin cancer, and renal cancer). My provider is aware and we do regular screenings.

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