HEALTHIER YOU: All in the family
BY DR. ANNETTE MAYES
Gossiping about members of our family is a guilty pleasure. We love to get the skinny on what’s happening in the lives of our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and in-laws. But for everything we know about who those folks are dating or why one is mad at the other, what do we really know about a part of their lives that could very well have a direct impact on our own: their health.
Family history plays a critical role in assessing the risk of inherited medical conditions and single gene disorders. Several methods have been established to obtain family medical histories, including the family history questionnaire or checklist and the pedigree. It is recommended that all women receive a family history evaluation as a screening tool for inherited risk. Family history information should be reviewed and updated regularly, especially when there are significant changes to family history. Where appropriate, further evaluation should be considered for positive responses, with referral to genetic testing and counseling as needed.
One of the most common tools used in general practice is the family history questionnaire or checklist. Having the patient complete the questionnaire at home allows extra time for the patient to contact family members and provide more accurate information. Direct patient questioning permits clarification of medical terminology that may be unclear to the patient. Any positive responses on the questionnaire should be followed up by the health care provider to obtain more detail — including the relationship of the affected family members to the patient, exact diagnosis, age of onset, severity of disease, and any known causes of infertility if applicable.
Any genetic counseling and testing that can be completed before conception is beneficial to the couple, allowing a broader array of options and more time for decision-making. Couples may decide not to conceive, or they may consider using a gamete donor or obtaining a preimplantation genetic diagnosis if available.
Black History Month is a moment to reflect on how far we have come and how far we have to go. Your own personal health history may dictate your longevity, so take it seriously. Ask the hard questions and keep a personal health journal to keep you on the path to mental and physical well-being.
For additional information, contact the Las Vegas All Women’s Care Offices at (702) 522-9640. Or visit us at 700 Shadow Lane No. 165 (1st floor) in Las Vegas.