Why knowing your family medical history matters to you

When you are sitting with your family around the Sunday dinner table, the last thing you probably talk about is each other’s medical history. It’s most likely about the latest football game, movies you’ve seen or what restaurant you enjoyed. As awkward as it might seem though, having a conversation about your family history of breast cancer can be extremely vital to your own health, your treatment plan if you are diagnosed and your recovery.

So who do you ask and what questions do you ask them? First, start compiling a complete family history by finding out the health history of — at minimum — three generations of your relatives. This includes your children, sisters, mother, aunts, nieces, grandparents, and cousins.

During your research, you might find out that Aunt Celia had a benign lump removed from her breast about 8 years ago. You might also uncover that your second cousin on your mother’s side was treated for stage three breast cancer a few years ago.

Now it’s time to dig a little deeper. How old was Aunt Celia when the lump was found? How big was it? What breast cancer did your cousin have? What stage was she (or he) diagnosed? What treatment did she have? How did she respond to it? Keep all of this detailed information in a notebook to bring with you to any doctor’s appointments. If you have already gathered this information before but it’s been a few years since you’ve reviewed it, go back and have it updated. You never know what has changed over the years.

A complete family medical history includes the age of the relative and any diagnoses or, if you are asking about a deceased relative, the age and cause of death.

But how does their medical backgrounds affect you? Well, what your relatives have gone through can actually help to reduce your risk of breast cancer. For example, let’s say that your doctor notices that several aunts or cousins have had breast cancer. She might suggest that you schedule a mammography more often or perhaps start scheduling them when you are a bit younger. You might not have done so without this information. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions of your relatives as possible.

If your relatives are deceased, don’t worry. You still may be able to find out what you need. Ask other relatives — maybe there are children or spouses who can share what they know. Research death certificates and other public records, many of which are online.

When it comes to your health and reducing your risk of breast cancer, it’s important to tell the medical team everything you know so they can make informed decisions about your own healthcare.

To learn more about natural breast reconstruction and the process, contact The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction at NaturalBreastReconstruction.com or call toll-free at 1-866-374-2627.

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