Family history of colorectal cancer: How often and how accurately is it recorded?

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PURPOSE:A family history of colorectal cancer is an important risk factor for the disease. A positive family history means that endoscopic screening should be recommended and a strongly positive family history raises the possibility of a dominantly inherited syndrome. This study was performed to find how often and how accurately a family history of colorectal cancer was recorded in the charts of patients on a colorectal surgical ward. A second aim was to see whether family history-taking could be improved.METHODS:The charts of 100 inpatients on a colorectal surgical floor were reviewed for the presence of a family history of colorectal cancer. Any chart documentation was compared with a family history obtained by a detailed interview. The chart review was repeated four years later.RESULTS:In the initial review, we found that a family history was recorded in 45 of 100 charts. It was accurate for colorectal cancer in 36 charts. Four years later, the rate of family history recording increased to 61 of 96, whereas the accuracy rate (45/61) did not change. Responses to a simple screening question asking about a family history of colorectal cancer were accurate in 77 percent of patients.CONCLUSIONS:Not all colorectal surgical patients have their family histories recorded, and even when it is recorded, it is not always correct. Despite improvement during a four-year period, there is still room for further improvement in the recording of a family history of colorectal cancer. Physicians should make an effort to ask this question and document the response in the hospital chart.

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