Family History Updates: “Should I tell my provider?”

Most patients are familiar with the paperwork and longer visits that accompany the first visit to a new doctor’s office. Oftentimes, this paperwork includes filling out detailed information about the patient’s personal medical history including medications, surgeries, and medical conditions. In almost every case, the patient is also asked to answer questions about their family members’ medical conditions. After the initial visit, when patients go back to the same provider, they are asked about their personal healthcare updates. However, year after year, it is easy for patients to forget to update their provider on updates to their family members since their initial visit. Although these minor details may not seem relevant to a patient’s individual health, it is very important to mention these changes to family history at yearly visits.

 

In the context of familial cancer diagnoses, there are new cutting-edge comprehensive genetic screening tests that are constantly improving in their ability to detect inheritable genetic mutations. By updating your provider on a relative who was recently diagnosed with cancer, your doctor can help you decide if you are now a candidate for testing. The benefit of testing includes access to coverage for earlier screening for a multitude of cancer. For example, if a patient’s uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six months ago, informing the patient’s gynecologist or primary care provider is imperative to make sure the patient does not need further screening for breast, ovarian, or colon cancer. Even if a family member was not diagnosed with cancer, certain familial medical conditions may warrant an update to the patient’s routine lab screening or medication options. For example, if a female patient taking hormone replacement therapy finds out their mother had a blood clot or bleeding disorder diagnosis in the past year, this would be an important finding to discuss with the patient’s gynecologist to make sure the patient is using the safest medication. In short, healthcare providers consider many aspects of their patient’s health when creating individualized care. As a patient, it is important to inform your provider of both personal and family medical updates to make sure the most appropriate and safest care is provided. At Kennesaw Gynecology, we encourage you to have these discussions at every visit! 

Author
Margaret Macon Margaret is the Nurse Practitioner at Kennesaw Gynecology. She received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, majoring in Medicine, Health, & Society and minoring in both Spanish Language and Art History. She completed her Master’s in Nursing Science degree at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in 2017 with a specialization in Women’s Health. Margaret is ecstatic to join the wonderful team at Kennesaw Gynecology and strongly supports our mission to provide the highest quality of personalized care for our patients. Margaret’s professional interests include access to preventative care, adolescent health, family planning, and menopausal transition. Her services include annual well-woman exams, problem-focused visits, contraception counseling, endometrial biopsies, and long-acting removal contraception (LARC) procedures, including intrauterine device (IUD) and Nexplanon insertions and removals.

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