Caring for families with a family history of cancer: Why concerns about genetic predisposition are missing from the palliative agenda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes


Care of the family is integral to palliative care, but little attention has been paid to the way nurses, or other healthcare professionals, are responding to the needs of families who are concerned about whether their family history of cancer is associated with an inherited genetic predisposition. This paper discusses how palliative care nurses perceive the care needs of patients with a family history of cancer. Data were collected through recorded, semi-structured interviews with 10 nurses who had worked in specialist palliative care. The findings show that there are cogent arguments and concerns about raising the issue of an inherited genetic predisposition at the end of life (especially when the patient is close to death and there is a lack of knowledge about genetics). Nevertheless, exemplar cases are used to illustrate the reasons why it is important that nurses working in specialist palliative care settings are aware of the needs of this patient group. The paper highlights that nurses not only need an appropriate knowledge base but also an insight of what can be achieved when supporting patients with a family history of cancer.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-124
Number of pages8
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • genetics, Family history, palliative care