In our last post of October, we discussed the importance of knowing your family history. That discussion mostly focused on personal and family history information as it related to cancer risks, but it is just as important to learn about other aspects of your family history to assess risks to yourself and your children for many types of inherited genetic conditions.
If you are thinking of starting a family of your own or your children are getting ready for that stage of their lives, then you should take advantage of the time you have with your family during the holidays to start a discussion about family health history.
The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) recommends the collection of family health history in order to provide better medical care. The extent of the information gathered depends on how much information you know and can in turn provide to your healthcare specialist.
So keep your family updated! Your health is constantly changing, this is not a one-time discussion or something to ignore. Start the conversation ASAP and use your family gatherings as an opportunity to empower yourself and continue to gain knowledge throughout your life. This knowledge can aid in diagnosis, healthcare decisions, screening, genetic test selection, interpretation of test results and the identification of other at-risk relatives.
Many of you are extremely proactive about your health already, so let’s take it one step further and put the whole picture together. You should know the health history of your first degree relatives (parents, siblings, children), second (grandparents, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, half-siblings, grandchildren) and potentially even you third (first cousins).
Helpful pieces of information include:
- Current age or age at death
- Gender at birth
- Medical conditions with ages of onset
- Treatments received
- Pregnancy histories
- Any other details you can think of
It is also always helpful if you can get any medical records documenting a diagnosis or genetic testing result.
Talking about these topics can be difficult or uncomfortable, but this information cannot only help you, but every member of your family. So when you're sitting around the Thanksgiving table, take the time to ask these important questions. Check out NSGCs tips and tricks for how to start the conversation.