Sharing the news about a cancer diagnosis with family members can be just as difficult as first hearing about the diagnosis itself; however, sharing medical history information with relatives has only gained importance as doctors learn about the genetic link associated with some cancers.
Shanna Gustafson, MS, MPH, is a Cancer Genetics Counselor at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center
Oftentimes, there is mystery surrounding why relatives died or illnesses they may have had, due to family members’ hesitancy to share personal medical information. In an attempt to encourage families to share their health history with relatives, there are state and national initiatives to promote sharing family health history. The aims of these initiatives are to encourage families to collect and record their family health history, share it with health providers and relatives to help determine risks, and encourage prevention.
Most cancer is sporadic; however having a relative with a cancer diagnosis may influence the risk for other relatives to have a similar cancer. When collecting family history information to assess for the possibility of an increased cancer risk, the most important details to identify include:
Which relatives have had a cancer diagnosis
Age of these relatives at diagnosis
Type of cancer or what organ did the cancer originate in
Whether any relatives have had more than one cancer diagnosis
It is also helpful to have information about the ages and number of relatives who have not had a cancer. Continue reading →
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