Monday, March 7, 2016

Is Your Cancer Luck or Legacy?

You know how this goes. You tell someone you have received a cancer diagnosis and either directly or indirectly they start to probe: “Is there any other (your brand of) cancer in your family?”

We know that is often a self-comforting question: if there is cancer in your family, and you have this scary diagnosis, then maybe they can (falsely) feel a tad safer. That is, while insensitive, sort of understandable.

But it’s a different matter when your oncologist is asking the same question. Because they know some stuff that you don’t. You might bee thinking, “Hey, my granddad had colon cancer so this breast lump surely can’t be a big deal. Or the reverse, “Sure, we’ve had some melanoma scares over the years so I don’t have to worry about lung cancer.”

Or—and this is hardest—you have cancer so you think (in a magical thinking kind of way) “At least this means my kids won’t get cancer.” As if you are taking one for the team.

Or maybe you shove all of those thoughts far away and you don’t talk or think about cancer in your family tree.

But you might want to. 

A new book by Theodora Ross, M.D., Ph.D. called, A Cancer in the Family will help you learn about your genetic inheritance, and the ways that cancer moves through families. 

Ross’s very smart and very readable book gives facts and figures, yes, but it also gives you language with which to think about cancer’s patterns, causes, systems and statistics, and the when and what of genetic testing.

The foreword to “A Cancer in the Family” was written by the best cancer writer ever: Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Emperor of All Maladies. Of Ross’s book Mukherjee writes: 

“Confronting a family history of cancer and thinking about the nuts and bolts of genetics can feel overwhelming. Ultimately, though, the knowledge you gain from this book is empowering. It can save your life, and he lives of the people you love most.”

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