October has been the month of pink on in.site. We have discussed breast self-awareness, the importance of cancer risk assessment, and ways to reduce our own risk of breast cancer. During breast cancer awareness month, we’ve also talked a lot about hereditary cancer risk assessment and the importance of having personalized cancer screening recommendations based on your own risk level for various cancers. One of the most important steps that we can take to empower ourselves and be proactive about our healthcare is to learn about our family history.
October also happens to be family history month. In the coming weeks as you plan holiday vacations, sit around the table at Thanksgiving, or are just hanging out with your family, think about this - do you know what’s in your family history? Ask your parents, your grandparents, your uncles and aunts, your cousins and siblings – what is in your history?
When you seek genetic counseling or cancer risk assessment, your genetic counselor will need some key pieces of information from your family history. To get you started, here are some important questions that you should know the answers to if you are interested in seeking a cancer risk assessment:
Has anyone in the family ever been diagnosed with cancer? If so, what type and at what age?
Has anyone in the family ever had genetic testing? If so, for what diseases/genes? What were the results of that testing?
For individuals in the family that are no longer living – how old were they when they passed away, and what was the cause?
Another important step is self-awareness. What is in your medical history? Do you have records from your most recent medical visits? Spend some time this month gathering your records and organizing your documents. Some documents you should seek copies of, or at least be aware of results from, are:
Most recent mammogram/breast imagine
Most recent colonoscopy report
Results of your most recent pap smear or pelvic exam
Results of any dermatology visits or procedures you have had
Any other testing or specialty visits
Happy fall, and happy family history month! We hope that you will take some time to become more “health history” aware and encourage your family and friends to do the same, as well.