Why Knowing the History of your Family’s Health is Important

Researchers have learned that the majority of diseases have a genetic component. It is because of this fact that health professionals are stressing the importance of genetic testing and knowing one’s family history of health. It is this knowledge that led L. Resnick to get tested for the BRCA gene, which causes breast cancer. Knowing her family’s history of the disease and getting the testing done allowed her to make proactive choices about her health. Her story should encourage others to look into their own family history and genetic testing. Knowing this information can help doctors look for certain signs, it can help doctors select the correct treatment plan, or it can prevent the disease altogether.

About Genetic Testing

Scientists have discovered many things about the human genome, including the number of diseases that have a genetic component. They have learned that these changes in the genetic sequence can be inherited, or they can evolve during one’s lifetime. Not only do these changes affect if somebody has a certain disease, it can also affect how they will respond to certain treatments and medications, furthering the reasons people should look into genetic testing. Luckily, online genetic testing has become popular through sites such as Ancestry.com and 23andme. But while these sites can be helpful, it is important to note that they are not foolproof. The best way to ensure that the best is coming from the results is to share them with a health professional. A genetic counselor may be the next best step, as they know what to look for and how to conduct further testing.

About Family History

Dr. Luisel Ricks-Santi, the director of Hampton University’s Cancer Research Center, says that “having a family history and looking at that tree is still the most useful tool” when it comes to finding the risks one has for a certain disease. If a relative has a certain disease, doctors can use that information to look for signs of that disease in another family member. Ricks-Santi notes how important family trees are when it comes to cancer. Knowing if a certain form of cancer is present in one’s family tree can not only help doctors know what to look out for, but it can also help them with treatment. A family tree and the knowledge that comes from it can help doctors decide if the best course of action is a lumpectomy, radiation, or a mastectomy if the disease in question was breast cancer, for example. While certain information may be difficult to find, as many people do not like to disclose information about their health, it is still very important to have. The information that one should know about at least three generations of their family includes sex, date of birth, ethnicity, medical and mental health conditions, complications with pregnancy, lifestyle habits, the age in which any condition was diagnosed, and if the relative is deceased, their age and cause of death. This information is integral to a complete family tree, and can help doctors track certain diseases such as breast cancer, diabetes, hemophilia, Parkinson’s Disease, colon cancer, and many more.

L. Resnick’s Story

L. Resnick is a mother of two from Seattle, Washington. She is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, which heightens her risk of breast cancer, her grandmother passed away from breast cancer, and her mother also had the disease. Knowing her family history became very important to Resnick, as it helped her to know that she was at a heightened risk of breast cancer. Not only did she know her history, but she also decided to get genetic testing for the BRCA gene. The testing confirmed her suspicions; she was a carrier. Resnick decided to have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy to ensure that she did not get any type of cancer. Not only did the testing and knowledge of her family history help her, but it can also help her children. It was suggested that Resnick’s children also get tested for the gene before they are 25, to ensure that they can make the best informed decision about their health.

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