Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Education

10 Minute consultation: Family history of breast cancer

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 01 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:050251
  1. Anneke Lucassen, consultant in clinical genetics1,
  2. Eila Watson, deputy director2
  1. 1Wessex Clinical Genetics Service, The Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton SO16 5YA
  2. 2Cancer Research UK Primary Care Education Research Group, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF

A woman comes to see you because she is approaching the age, 45, at which her sister developed breast cancer. She is worried about her risk and is keen to know if there are any preventive measures she can take.


What issues you should cover

  • You will need to take a family history, going back at least two generations on both sides of the family. Start with the patient and mark her with an arrow on the chart. Note ages and sex of parents, children, and siblings (circle for female relatives and square for males). Ask how many siblings each parent has or had, whether they themselves had children, and about grandparents. Note current ages or ages at death and cause of death. Computer pedigree drawing packages are under development.

  • Ask whether the family has had any other cases of cancer. Use colour or pattern codes to indicate the …

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