Medical history and physical examination

A medical history and physical exam are basic tools used to help diagnose many conditions, including cancer.

A medical history is a description of your child’s health throughout their life. Your doctor will ask about your child’s current and past health, such as:

  • surgeries
  • immunisations
  • accidents
  • symptoms
  • illnesses.

Because some cancers run in the family, the doctor will also ask about your family medical history.

It’s important to give as complete and accurate medical history as you can. This helps the doctors decide on the types of tests needed, as well as the best treatment program for your child.

In a physical exam, the doctor will:

  • examine your child’s body to check for any abnormalities, such as lumps and bumps, or to check if there is any pain
  • listen to your child’s heart and lungs
  • check your child’s nervous system by testing
    • muscle strength and tone
    • reflexes
    • vision
    • sensation
    • hearing.

A physical examination and medical history does not diagnose cancer. Rather, it helps the doctor decide what other diagnostic tests need to be done.