1. How was menopause? This question is important as women tend to follow them other women in their family when it comes to peri-menopause and menopausal changes. Do the hot flashes and night sweats start in the 40’s or 50’s? How long did it take? Was it rough? Was it easy? How did she treat it? Any complications?
2. Who has had cancer in the family? And at what age? This applies to both the men and women however mom tends to know this information. If grandma and the aunts had breast cancer at a younger age, this is more concerning than finding out grandma had it later in life. Has anyone had thyroid cancer? Prostate cancer? Ovarian, cervical or uterine cancer? Skin cancer? Know your family’s cancer history.
3. What are the family trends? If all the women eventually develop thyroid disease and go on thyroid medication, this helps both you and your health care provider to be extra diligent and pro-active. Does heart disease run in the family? What about obesity? Fertility problems? Endometriosis? Osteoporosis? Do the women tend to lose their hair as they age? Everyone have their gallbladder? What about digestive or food allergy problems? All of this information is critical for future planning and may shed light into current symptoms.
4. Any outliers in the family? The 2nd cousin with celiac’s disease may not strike you as important however as your gas and bloating worsens, it could be a direct link. The weird uncle whose mood alternates from really happy and hyper to down and depressed may be suffering from undiagnosed bi-polar. This can be genetically linked as can depression in the family. If just grandma had aches and pains it could have been undiagnosed fibromyalgia or a certain type of arthritis – how is your pain?
5. What about your siblings? Not all brothers and sisters are close therefore they may not inform each other about different health issues, concerns, scares and symptoms but mom usually knows. Ask her if your symptoms sound like anyone in the family or periodically check in on the health of the rest of the family. You may find out that your older sister has been having problems getting pregnant too or that your brother experiences the same types of migraines that you do and the same medications are not working.
While some people may prefer to keep some of their health history private, the more you know the more you (and your family) can be pro-active and prevent when possible. Let your health care provider know of any changes as well to routinely keep your chart up-to-date and help them provide the best care possible for you.
Learn more on the women's health website, Emowher!
1. Segurado, R., Deterawadleigh, S., Levinson, D., Lewis, C., Gill, M., Nurnbergerjr, J., Craddock, N. Depaulo, J. (2003). "Genome Scan Meta-Analysis of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder, Part III: Bipolar Disorder". Am J Human Genetics 73 (1): 49–62.
2. Steiner, A., Baird, D., Kesner, J. (2008). Mother’s Menopausal Age is Associated with her Daughter’s Early Follicular Phase Urinary, Follicle Stimulating Hormone Level. Menopause. 15(5): 940–944.