Community Blog

Talking to Your Parent About Your Family's History of Cancer

By Vicki and Brian Day

Virtually everyone will be affected by cancer, either by suffering it themselves or by knowing someone close to them who suffers it, at some point in their lives. It is an exceptionally prevalent disease, and one that is feared by people of all ages. As a family caregiver, this is something that you likely think about considerably as you care for your aging parent. You want to do everything that you can to protect your parent from this disease or to help them to deal with it in the best way possible should they develop it at some point in their later years. One of the most important things to keep in mind when thinking about this is risk. While there are many potential risk factors for cancer, one that should not be overlooked is family history.

It is important to note that just like with any other risk factor for the disease, family history of a particular cancer does not mean that your parent will absolutely develop cancer, and not all cancers have family history as a risk factor. Those that do, however, mean that if there is someone in your parent’s immediate family, including you or any other of their children, who has suffered cancer, they are at greater risk.

Talking to your aging parent about family history of cancer is not just about being aware of their risks for future health conditions. Knowing about the health challenges and complications that past generations of your family suffered is also a way for you to make sure that you, your children, your grandchildren, and even further generations are better prepared to be proactive about their health and make the decisions that are right for them.

When you discuss family history of cancer with your parent, make sure to get as many details as you can. This includes who had the cancer, their relation to your parent, the type of cancer that they had, when they developed it, what type of treatment that they underwent, and how long they lived. All of this information can then be shared with your parent’s doctor to further illuminate their cancer risk and other potential issues with their health.

If you have been considering ways that you can enhance your aging parent’s life and help them to live a lifestyle that is more fulfilling, engaged, and independent throughout their later years, now may be the ideal time for you to consider starting elder care for them. An elderly home care services provider can be with your aging parent on a schedule that is right not just for their needs, but also for the care that you are able to give them. This means that they can stay as healthy, safe, comfortable, and happy as possible as they age in place, and you can feel confident that they are getting everything that they need both when you are able to be with them and when you are not.