Patient's history

Author:  Gesche Tallen, MD, PhD, Editor:  Dr. med. Gesche Tallen, Reviewer:  Prof. Dr. med. Ursula Creutzig, English Translation:  Hannah McRae, Last modification: 2015/01/13

Prior to every treatment, the doctor seeing the young patient on admission to the hospital will take the patient's and the family's history. That means that he/she will ask the child or teenager and also the parents several questions regarding the beginning, type and course of symptoms as well as regarding previous diseases of the patient and his family members. Although the family physician or paediatrician, who has referred your child to the cancer centre might have already taken the history, it will be repeatedly done in the hospital again.


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Having your child's history being taken and also the physical exam (please see below) might feel unpleasant to all in this already situation. However, none of these actions will physically hurt. They they are absolutely essential for the doctors and the caregiver-team to learn to know your child and the family, thus being able to provide optimal care.

A patient's history usually includes:

  • the current history: The doctors ask questions regarding the onset and type of the symptoms, that have led to admission. They also need to know, what kind of tests might have been performed already and if any treatment has been given so far. In addition, the caregiver-team requires information on your child's nutrition, allergies, medication, to name a few.
  • the previous history: The doctors ask, for example, how the mom's pregnancy with the child went, how the child developed after birth, which vaccinations have been given and which childhood diseases the child has had so far, and if there have been other hospital stays in the past.
  • the social history: This includes, for example, questions on kindergarden or school and other activities as well as the situation at home (if the parents are living together, if they are both working etc.).
  • the family history: Questions are, for example, if the patient has siblings, and if so, whether they or other relatives, including the patient's parents, are healthy.

Note: Nobody expects you to remember every single detail right away. There will be lots of opportunities to provide the caregiver-team with further information. Writing the information down, however, and carrying it with you may help not to lose it and also, to have it available whenever needed.