“The use of a family history screening tool has been shown to increase the likelihood of detecting a patient at high risk of developing an inherited medical condition by 20% compared with medical record review alone.”

– ACOG Committee Opinion No. 478

The Importance of Cancer Family History in Screening Patients for Hereditary Cancer Risk

Obtaining a patient’s complete Cancer Family History (CFHx) is a key component of precision medicine. Leading medical society guidelines recommend collecting and evaluating family history as a screening tool for hereditary cancer risk.1,2

Obtaining a complete family history facilitates risk stratification and appropriate medical management recommendations.

Family history should be updated at least annually. Madlensky et al. observed a 70% increase in the number of patients considered to be at high risk for Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer over a 7-year period, due to the development of new cancers in their families.5

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) outlines the following as key aspects of a detailed cancer family history:3,4

  • Expanded family history to include first-, second-, and third-degree relatives
  • Inclusion of maternal AND paternal relatives
  • Types of cancer
  • Age at diagnosis
  • Bilaterality of cancers
  • Ancestry
  • When available, tumor histology/pathology (e.g. triple-negative breast cancer, colorectal or endometrial cancer with MSI-high histology)
  • When relevant, notation of cancer risk-reducing strategies including surgeries or chemoprevention

Providers recognize the importance of capturing cancer family history. See what your peers are saying:

Family History’s Impact on Patient Management

Family History As a Basic Part of Patient Evaluation

Family History in a Primary Care Practice

Hereditary cancer risk assessment: The new standard in women’s health care

Learn how to make Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment an efficient and routine part of your daily practice.

Read Dr. Marra Francis’ article

A process to appropriately capture a patient’s Cancer Family History can be implemented in many ways. Given that active evaluation and use of cancer family history is integral to quality patient care, the following tools have been developed by Myriad to aid in the collection of this important and potentially life-saving information:

Hereditary Cancer Questionnaires:

A Hereditary Cancer Questionnaire captures a patient’s CFHx in one form and can be easily incorporated into all new patient paperwork. This helps information to be captured at the first visit and updated throughout treatment.

Download Family History Questionnaire

Electronic Tools:

Both the Family History Tool and Hereditary Cancer Quiz are easy to use on-line resources that can help identify patients for hereditary cancer testing by evaluating CFHx.

The online Family History Tool can help you identify appropriate patients for hereditary cancer testing before your patient’s scheduled appointment.

  • Collects a thorough cancer family history
  • Generated a 4-generation pedigree
  • Results can be emailed directly to physician
  • Takes 6 minutes on average to complete
  • Comes with a unique url and embed code so it can be emailed to patients or posted or on your website

Custom Family History Tool

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The easy to use, online Hereditary Cancer Quiz can help you identify appropriate patients for hereditary cancer testing before or during your patient’s scheduled appointment.

  • Immediately provides a result when one “red flag” is indicated in the patient’s history
  • Quickly identifies appropriate patients often in less than 30 seconds.
  • Provides a patient education video
  • Accessible on most devices
  • Results can be emailed directly to physician
  • Comes with a unique url and embed code so it can be emailed to patients or posted on your website

Custom Hereditary Cancer Quiz


  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee Opinion1 No. 478: Family History as a Risk Assessment Tool. Obstet Gynecol 2011; 117(3): 747-50, reaffirmed 2015.
  2. Lu KH, Wood ME, Daniels M, Burke C, Ford J, Kauff ND, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology Expert Statement: Collection and Use of a Cancer Family History for Oncology providers. American Society of Clinical Oncology. J Clin Oncol 2014;32:833–40
  3. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Genetic/Familial High-Risk Assessment: Breast and Ovarian, V1.2017.
  4. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Colorectal Cancer Screening, V2.2016.
  5. Madlensky L, et al. The importance of updating the family history of breast cancer survivors. 2009. San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

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