Thanksgiving is National Family History Day. The U.S. Surgeon General encourages you and your family to use the time together during the holidays to write down your family medical history which is a valuable tool for both you and your healthcare team. Below, hear from Gillian Hooker, Genetic Counselor and Director of Clinical Development at NextGxDx, to learn the top 10 reasons to track your family cancer history.
10 Reasons to Track Your Family Cancer History
- Your family history may help determine whether you were born with an increased risk for cancer.
- People with multiple family members affected by the same cancer may be candidates for genetic counseling or genetic testing.
- For some types of cancer, family history can help determine whether you or your family members can take steps to reduce your risk of cancer or increase the likelihood of finding cancer early.
- Knowing the specific type of cancer your family members had can often help you understand more about your own cancer or other cancers in your family and how to treat them.
- Emotionally, seeing the pattern of cancers in your family can give you insight into your own feelings about cancer.
- Practically, having a family history sheet, heath pedigree or family tree can save time when you visit a new health care provider and are faced with another set of new patient forms.
- The information you collect today may benefit younger generations in the future, as they begin to think about ways to reduce their risk for getting cancer.
- Having a tool to communicate with your health care providers about family history can help in starting conversations about how your family’s cancer experience factors into your decision making.
- Given the right timing and context, conversations about cancer with your family members can help you to gain more understanding of the impact of cancer on your family as a whole.
- Cancer family history changes over time, as does our knowledge of cancer risk and ways to manage it.
For a free, online tool to collect your family history, try the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait by clicking here.
If you feel like one-on-one support might be helpful in approaching questions about family history, family communication or cancer risks as a result of your family history, you might consider talking to a genetic counselor. To find a genetic counselor, visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors website and follow the “Find a Genetic Counselor” link to find a genetic counselor in your area.