Document Your Family’s Health History

Kennesha Baldwin | Published on February 11, 2016

Updated on March 29, 2018

familyOn Valentine’s Day, many people across the world will demonstrate their love for each other with jewelry, flowers, chocolate and other tokens of appreciation. At the Foundation, we encourage you to also take some time to demonstrate love for your relatives by documenting your family’s health history.

You share genes with your relatives and may also share similar behaviors and environments, which can affect your risk of developing health problems. Each person in your family can benefit from knowing family health history. This knowledge provides an opportunity for you and your health care provider to implement prevention and/or early intervention strategies.

Here are a few tips to consider in order to successfully document and present your information to your health care provider:

  • Take some time at family gatherings to talk with your relatives and ask questions. Ask about health problems, including cancer, and note date of onset and type of disease/condition, if possible. Also, pay attention to patterns that may signal undiagnosed conditions, such as a history of unexplained sudden deaths. Gather information on at least three generations of your family and more, if possible.
  • Use our Family History Chart to document what you learn.
  • Print out and share your in-depth family health history with your health care provider, who can help to identify patterns of disease and may also conduct screenings or tests that could identify an undiagnosed condition in you or your children.

Knowing your family history is just one of the Foundation’s Seven Steps to Prevent Cancer. Show your family some love and talk to them about cancer prevention.

Mapping a more in-depth family medical history will help you understand your risk for several diseases. Read more about a recent study at Duke University showing the importance of learning your complete medical history here.

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