Making Hereditary Cancer a Holiday Centerpiece

As you gather with your family during the holiday, consider taking the time to “Just Ask”
what they know about your family’s history of cancer.

Knowing your family’s health history is one of most powerful tools available to guide
healthcare decision making. Most cancers occur by chance, but cancer is hereditary in
some families. You can’t change your genes, but, by knowing your family’s history, you and
your family members can take actions to reduce the disease risk that may exist. Knowledge
is power

Everyone is an expert on their own family and its dynamics. Whether you want to include
hereditary cancer as part of your conversation over the holiday dinner or at some other
time when you gather together, make it a point to have this important conversation with
your family.

Creative Hereditary Cancer Family Conversation Starters

  • Encourage the Entire Family to Take the Quiz: Log into
    and pass a laptop or tablet computer around the room to family members at the
    holiday gathering and have each one complete the quiz. It takes less than a minute.
    Print out the results and share what you’ve collected with your family. Add the
    results to a Family Health History Record you can print here

    Decorate a Family History Centerpiece: Make hereditary cancer the centerpiece
    of your conversation this holiday season by decorating an empty jar and cutting up
    “Know Your Family History” questions to put in the jar. When the time is right, pass
    around the jar and have each family member pull questions from the jar, including
    ones about family health and cancer history. Collect the health and cancer information
    and document it on a Family Health History Record. Share what you’ve collected with
    each family member and your healthcare provider. You can download printable
    sample questions and a jar logo here

  • Build a Family Health Tree: This craft project will get everyone in your family
    involved. Cut out a leafless tree out of brown construction paper or print out the
    one we have provided. Tape the cutout to a wall at the location where the family
    is gathered for the holiday. On the branches, attach paper leaf cutouts with the
    names of any family members who have been diagnosed with or survived cancer. This
    tree will serve as a starting point to create your family’s health history and provide
    for plenty of engaging conversation. You can find a printable tree image and leaves

  • Create A Family Legacy Tablecloth:
    Use a well-made white tablecloth at this year’s
    holiday dinner and provide each family member with a different colored permanent
    marker. At the dinner or afterwards have each family member sign their name with
    the date. Then, instruct them to write down a short fun snippet about themselves.
    You may want to add memories of deceased family members to the tablecloth as well.
    This exercise can be a conversation starter for a discussion on the importance of
    family health and the history of cancer and other diseases. Each year, pull out your
    family legacy tablecloth and add to it.

During each of these activities, be sure to let all your family members know in advance what
you are doing.

Once you begin the conversation use what you learn to decide what steps you should take.
There are lots of resources to help.

To learn more about hereditary cancers and genetic testing, visit and
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Family Health History webpage.


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