Communicating with Family

The genetic evaluation and testing process can have implications that reach beyond the patient in front of you into the extended family. As the provider, you may be ideally placed to facilitate family communication about genetic risk and testing options.

Reasons to Involve Relatives

  • Accessing the most informative person for genetic testing
  • Ethical duty to warn relatives who are at risk

Communication Options

  • Encourage the patient to contact relatives to discuss risks and testing options
  • Be available to be contacted by relatives
  • Ask for permission to disclose information to relatives
  • Provide a letter summarizing risks and testing options that the patient can share with relatives (templates are available through laboratories, genetics experts, and online resources)

Key Information to Provide to Relatives

  • Basic background information on hereditary cancer syndromes, genetic testing, and the availability of risk reduction interventions
  • Personalized risk figures for the patient and specific relatives (inheritance risk, lifetime cancer risks)
  • Contact information for genetics specialists in the relative's area. See the Accessing Genetic Services Tool.