I’m worried about how my relatives will react

Someone who tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation is strongly advised to share this information with their close relatives (siblings, children and even aunts and uncles), as there is a very high chance that they will also have inherited the mutation. This is important as it allows them to decide if and when they want to take the test too.  

Every family has its own dynamics, and the thought of approaching your relatives with the news of a positive result can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. For some it may be getting in the way of properly considering going ahead with testing.  

“But how will I break the news?”  

“I don’t want them to be annoyed at me for testing”   

“What if they blame me for causing family issues?” 

“I don’t want to cause yet another rift” 

If you identify with these quotes, then read on. The following points may really help to ease your worries or concerns:  

  • You will not be alone in your journey. A genetic counsellor will guide you in understanding which relatives will be impacted by your test results and can offer advice about how it may be best to inform them. If you do not feel comfortable or equipped to have the conversation yourself, you can also be provided with information to pass on.  
  • You don’t need to do it straight away – if you need to get used to the news first or your relative (such as a child) is much too young, or if you have another valid reason to delay sharing the news, that is okay. The genetic counsellor who is supporting you will be able to explore the best timing.  Always remember though, that in some cases sharing the news sooner rather than later may be beneficial. For example, if you have a female relative over 30, she may be able to start enhanced breast screening immediately.  
  • It is very possible that your relatives will be appreciative of you sharing the information. Remember, you have not caused them to have the mutation. They have had it since they were born.  By testing and sharing the information, you have allowed them to learn about a crucial part of their genetics – and may be very grateful.  
  • You cannot control how people react, even when you are doing the right thing. Keeping this in mind can help enormously.  
  • Telling your close relatives that you are going ahead with testing before you get your results may help to prepare them should you be identified as positive. This may not work for everyone but for many it can make it an easier situation to navigate.