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Taking a cancer family history and drawing a family tree 

Taking a cancer family history and drawing a family tree
Chapter:
Taking a cancer family history and drawing a family tree
Author(s):

Emma Williams

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199672844.003.0003
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date: 18 August 2019

In order to assess an individual’s risk of developing cancer, it is essential to gather information about the family history. Drawing a family tree (pedigree), using clear and consistent symbols, provides a pictorial representation of the family relationships and those family members affected by cancer that assists with determining risk and appropriate screening recommendations and deciding whether referral to cancer genetics services is indicated. Gathering and documenting this type of information however raises issues of confidentiality and can expose feelings and concerns about cancer experiences which need to be approached with sensitivity. This chapter explains how to approach taking an accurate cancer family history, the type of information required, how to elicit that information, what information is important and why and how to construct and notate a pedigree.

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