EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — When it comes to breast cancer, women generally look to their mother’s side of the family to determine their risk. But considering what’s physically inherited from mom is only half of what you need to know, your father’s side of the family is just as important as mom’s to determine a personal risk of breast cancer.

Knowing both parents’ genetic history can help you be proactive with your own health. Most women are at greater risk for breast cancer based on their mother’s genetic history. Most, but not all.

“I always, you know, thought that breast cancer came from my mom’s side like my grandmother, my mom, but it actually didn’t,” said Jen Culton, a breast cancer previvor.

47-year-old Jen Culton inherited a brca1 gene mutation from her father’s side of the family.

“It wasn’t a matter of if I would get breast cancer but when,” Culton told Eyewitness News.

Culton was a previvor, someone living at elevated risk of a particular disease but not yet diagnosed. Because her gene mutation carried a risk for both ovarian and breast cancer, she had a hysterectomy and later, a double mastectomy.

“You know, I was just tired of living with that dark cloud over me,” Culton said.

A dark cloud that was the result of what came from her dad’s side of the family.

“I will say it’s much more common than people realize,” explained Skyler Jesz, a physician assistant.

How common?

“Anytime a patient, whether it be male or female, have a genetic mutation, there’s a 50 percent chance they’re going to pass it onto every single one of their kids. So anytime that we as women have a mutation, that means there’s a 50 percent chance that it came from our fathers,” Jesz said.

Jesz urges all women to speak with their doctor about cancer risks from both biological parents.

“They really need to have a good conversation about what cancers are running in the family so that they can share that information with their health care provider and decide if they’re at risk of a hereditary cancer syndrome,” Jesz explained.

And speak to your family, too. Culton ultimately found out about her own cancer risk by doing that. So did one of her daughters.

“It’s really important to be in the driver’s seat of your health and, like, you know Skyler said have the conversation with your parents and find out what genes are possible, you know, what cancers run in the family,” Culton told Eyewitness News.

The physician assistant Eyewitness News spoke with stressed the importance of genetic cancer risk assessments, especially when close family members have had cancer.

She encourages genetic testing for patients to gain deeper insights into their personal risk, and enable them to make informed decisions.