This Thanksgiving, after you give thanks and enjoy a meal with your loved ones, why not take a few minutes to discuss your family health history? This might not be the first activity that comes to mind when you think about how you might spend the holiday, but there is really no better time to review this vital information and ensure that everyone is up to date.
A comprehensive family health record can be especially valuable to physicians when they are identifying health risks, making diagnoses and recommending appropriate treatment options. To help ensure that your family makes the most of this important exercise, you should volunteer to take the lead. Here are some tips to help you get the conversation started:
• Give everyone a heads-up beforehand, so they’ll have time to brush up on their health information and identify any chronic conditions, severe illnesses, hospitalizations and medication use that might be pertinent to the discussion.
• Include all blood relatives – parents, children, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews – in the conversation.
• Understand that some family members may feel uncomfortable talking about their health history. Be respectful of their feelings, and reassure them that any information they can provide will be extremely valuable and shared only with your family’s health care providers.
• Ask questions about relatives who aren’t present, including those who are deceased.
• Record the information discussed at the table. Consider drafting a family tree, using a web-based tool or creating a customized spreadsheet on your computer, which can serve as a convenient place to organize the information you gather. Provide copies to all of your family members.
• Think of your family health history as a work in progress, and commit to keeping it updated. For instance, your family could revisit the topic annually on Thanksgiving.
Family health history is one of the main factors used by physicians to determine an individual’s risk of developing a number of serious conditions that have a genetic link, including many types of cancer. Even so, most families rarely – if ever – sit down and discuss their medical issues, let alone compile them into a written document. For your family, you can easily change that.
If you’d like to learn more about your inherited cancer risk, you are welcome to talk with the experts at Moffitt Cancer Center, and you don’t need a referral to do so.
If you’d like to learn more about your inherited cancer risk, you are welcome to talk with the experts at Moffitt Cancer Center, and you don’t need a referral to do so. Request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online.