Collecting information on your family’s history of cancer

What to collect

If you would like to explore your family history of breast cancer, you will need to collect all the information you can on the cancers that have occurred in blood relatives including:

  • How old they were when first diagnosed
  • Where in their body their cancer started

It’s also important to know about the relatives who haven’t developed cancer. For a list of all the information your GP (or breast care team) will request, see our Factsheet: Exploring your family history: information your doctor will need.

Talking with relatives

For some people, it can be difficult to find out the details of their relatives’ medical histories, especially if they are not in close contact with some family members. Relatives might not always be willing to provide this information, or might be unclear of the details. Sometimes, certain details about the medical history of relatives who have passed away can become confused or forgotten. If any details are uncertain, remember to note that.

Don’t worry if you are unable to find out all the information about your blood relatives’ history of cancer. Just do the best you can, while respecting other’s right for privacy.

Making notes

It may be helpful to note down the information you have collected, ready to share with your doctor. You may want to use our helpful tool on referral to email or print out notes on your family history.

Extra details

If you are referred to a specialist service to look into your family history, they may require extra details about your family’s cancer history and ancestry. Your specialist at the family history service or genetics service can explain the information they’d like you to collect. They may send you a letter or call you about this before your appointment.

They will also be able to help you prepare for discussions with your family and any emotions that arise.

Related information
Use our tool to email or print out notes on your family’s history of cancer, ready to discuss with your doctor

Use our tool

Read our advice on getting the support and information you need.

Read more

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