Chatting about medical records doesn’t exactly make for pleasant conversation at the annual family reunion or Thanksgiving dinner. But sharing personal health history with family members is important not only for you, but also for future generations.
Certain diseases — including diseases that affect your colorectal health — tend to run in families. Although you cannot change your genes, you can use the knowledge of your family health history to make educated choices about your medical care.
In this post, the team at Piedmont Colorectal Associates explains what your family health history can tell us about your colorectal health and why you should be informed.
Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer
The American Cancer Society says that 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women in the United States will get colorectal cancer. This risk significantly increases in individuals with a family history of the disease. If one or more members of your family have a history of colorectal cancer, you are more likely to be diagnosed than someone without a family history.
Your Risk for Lynch Syndrome
Lynch Syndrome is an inherited genetic condition that increases the risk of colorectal and other cancers. Having Lynch Syndrome does not necessarily mean you will get colorectal cancer, but it can increase the risk of getting the cancer by as much as 80 percent, according to Temple University Health System.
Gathering Information About Your Family Health History
Although it can be awkward, try to obtain detailed information about your family members’ health histories. It is most important to talk to your first-degree family members: your parents and siblings. Then, you’ll want to talk to second-degree relatives (your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins).
If a family member has a history of a disease or cancer, get the specifics, such as the exact type of cancer and the age at which he or she was diagnosed. If a relative passed away from a disease, find out the age of diagnosis and the age at which he or she died.
Sharing Information About Your Family Health History
Once you have an accurate family tree of medical information, you should share this information with your medical team. In some cases, doctors recommend undergoing genetic counseling to review your family history in detail and determine whether genetic testing may be useful.
For people with a family history of colorectal cancer, the team at Piedmont Colorectal Associates often recommends starting colonoscopy screenings earlier and/or performing them more frequently. During colonoscopies, our doctors look for (and can remove) precancerous polyps from the colon, reducing the risk that the growths develop into cancer.
If you have a personal history of colorectal cancer or Lynch Syndrome, be sure to share this information with your family members so they can make their own decisions about their preventive health care.
For more information about colorectal cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out to Piedmont Colorectal Associates. We care about helping you make the best decisions for you and your family’s health and well-being.