Begin Documenting Your Family Health History This Thanksgiving
Marshfield Clinic Genetics Experts Offer Five Easy Steps and Easy-to-Use Form
as Surgeon General Launches National Initiative Monday, November 8
MARSHFIELD, Wis., Nov. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- As researchers learn more about diseases and conditions that have a hereditary component, documenting your family health history is taking on new importance, according to genetics experts at Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin. "Creating a detailed health history can benefit everyone and family gatherings are a great place to start," said Christina Zaleski, a certified genetic counselor at Marshfield Clinic. "Knowing about predispositions for certain diseases in your family such as heart disease, diabetes, depression or cancer could lead to prevention or an early diagnosis and treatment. For instance, if you know there's a history of breast cancer in your family, your doctor may recommend you or your daughters begin having mammograms or MRI scans earlier. For some women who are known to be at high risk, other options such as surgery or chemoprevention may also be a consideration." Zaleski says most people become interested in health histories when they're thinking about having children or dealing with a relative's illness. She suggests using family get-togethers as an opportunity to begin to talk and create a health history the whole family can share. Obtaining a family history under less stressful situations can make the process easier. "This shouldn't put a damper on festivities," she said. "Talking with family members about their health is a good way to learn more about them and also hear great stories." For people who think talking about health might be difficult for family members, Zaleski suggests sending relatives a letter to explain the project and how everyone can benefit from this work. That way, they can write down information they later can send or bring to a designated family member. Zaleski and her Marshfield Clinic genetics colleagues recommend five steps for creating a comprehensive family health history: 1. Document health information for three generations, if possible. Start with yourself, any children, your parents and immediate family (brothers and sisters). Next, move on to relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. For a more comprehensive health history, you can add your spouse and three generations of his/her family. 2. Capture as much information as possible and be accurate about birth defects, developmental disabilities and diseases diagnosed in the family. If possible, document at what age the conditions began and ages at death. Include common, as well as more rare conditions that may be in the family. It is equally important to document relatives that lived to an old age and were healthy. It is also helpful to include the countries of origin for your ancestors (for example, did your grandparents come from Germany, China, Mexico?) 3. Document environmental or job exposures. For example, do any family members smoke, work with chemicals or live near industries that involve chemicals? 4. Keep the information filed in a safe place at home on paper or on your computer and update it every year as the family grows and changes. Also put a copy in a safe deposit box. 5. Pass along the information to others in the family and to your children. Share a copy with your doctor or genetic counselor at your next medical visit. Awareness of almost any disease or condition in the family can help family doctors provide better care, according to Zaleski. The more information shared with family physicians or a genetic counselor, the better, she added. Easy Forms Available Online "You can create a family health history using forms available on the Internet," Zaleski said. "Marshfield Clinic will have a form available starting Monday, November 8, at http://www.marshfieldclinic.org . Another great place to start is through the National Society of Genetics Counselors website at http://www.nsgc.org . On this website, you can also find a genetic counselor near you to discuss specific concerns you may have about your family history." The Marshfield Clinic system consists of 39 patient care, research and education facilities in northern, central and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States. Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link. CHRISTINA ZALESKI, M.S. http://www.profnet.com/ud_public.jsp?userid=480711
SOURCE Marshfield Clinic
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