Genealogy today involves not only making a family tree but also creating a medical family tree. There are some DNA tests out there that can reveal a person’s risk of developing cancer. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act has made it possible for more people than ever before to be able to afford to see a doctor. Even so, there are some reasons why you might not know that cancer runs in your family.
You were adopted.
There have been many stories about adoptees who grew up and were able to find one of their birth parents. This is not how things work with all adoptees. As such, a person who was adopted might not have any means of learning what types of illnesses run in their biological family.
Your family doesn’t go to the doctor.
For some, the decision to avoid seeing a doctor is connected to a person’s religious beliefs. Other people avoid seeking medical care because they have a phobia of doctors which causes them to become too anxious to even make an appointment.
There are also people who grew up without having access to doctors. Their parents couldn’t afford to pay for medical care. Or, their family lived in an area that lacked local doctors. These individuals may not realize the importance of preventative care (because they were not taught to see doctors on a regular basis). Your family members might not know that they have cancer.
Your family doesn’t want to scare you.
People who suspect that a particular kind of cancer runs in their family might avoid sharing that information with certain family members. In general, they want to spare other family members the stress that can come with the knowledge that they may have a gene that indicates a higher risk of developing cancer.
Their good intentions result in keeping family members completely in the dark about their own risk of cancer. It is possible they may be waiting for the right time to have that discussion.
Part of this could stem from superstition. Does your family whisper the word “cancer” instead of saying it out loud? People who do this may believe that talking about cancer will somehow increase the likelihood of having a loved one develop it.
Talking about health issues can be embarrassing.
A person who has cancer might feel that it is too embarrassing to talk about with their family. They want to avoid discussing symptoms that people would not typically discuss in polite company. Some of the treatments for cancer can result in debilitating and demeaning side effects. That could be extremely hard to talk about for a person whose family has always viewed them as being strong.
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