Your Medical History

Dr. Karen Latimer discusses the importance of family medical history.
5:56 | 12/09/11

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Transcript for Your Medical History
Let me go for a doctor's appointment chances are -- have to fill out a form on your family's medical history but for many of us gathering this kind of information is not too easy. So what are we need to know our medical history how is it used and what happens if we just don't know it. Joining us with more -- family practitioner and author of the -- yes five dot net doctor Karen Latimer got a lot of great to. CEO -- -- so family history now right there aren't more including our family already get complicated hey involving a family -- how important is knowing your family medical history. It's important it's part of a piece of the history of the whole -- in and it helps us assess the risk for certain diseases for certain conditions. And if there it is a pattern in the family and that may Alter what we do for patient terms of recommendations especially recommendations for screening tests. And most notably be calling cancer breast cancer is a strong family history. -- and we'll recommend that a patient. -- screened earlier than the general population possibly more frequently or even with different types of tests rights so it's great for that genetic diseases if your family planning. And you're pregnant you -- to know if they're any genetic diseases that -- -- your family need to speak to -- will be about those things so it is so there are specific diseases or specific cancers let's say that it is helpful says tonight the family history about but again. There are certain things which have no genetic background do so knowing your Kelly's history no guarantee. That you're going to be say that -- absolutely right it's not at all away week. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Let's say you need to collect this information from your family members and you're lucky enough and that's your family members are still live they and both sides of the family are around because. All of this is a rarity for a lot of people that's right how do you then go about collecting this information well I think it's good to find the busy body in your family find the person either on your mother -- your father said both didn't do you get -- -- DNA from both. Who know the most and everyone has admitted that AMP look on -- a woman -- manner. But if you want to really be very clear about what you're doing and why you're doing -- -- -- purpose with them so that today. Are more open with -- and also tell them did you want to share this with the rest of the families of one person doesn't actually very helpful for everybody. Sensitive and -- -- respect privacy and and also often is very difficult. For people to talk about these things that you want to be a good listener and prepare yourself you become of the pen and Paper and -- -- anything they say it might pop up that it's. Does seem important at the time but it might start to you know be put together and is Melissa specific questions he would recommend -- -- funding even if you find this at this and anybody who knows yet when everyone died. She may not know exactly what they had -- -- and he says she specifically ask aunt Sally did anyone in our family have breast cancer than anyone have. You know a heart attack or should you just. You know. Aspen -- I don't sister have the time with the pace and make some time for -- and sometimes it's better -- to do it as a questionnaire to hand it to somebody help them fill it out or do with not face to -- and -- -- writing you have an opportunity sometimes people more open but what you wanna do really is look at three generations. And I would go -- person by person I would take the time to do this this is not something you have time to do in your doctor's office but certainly something you might have time to do over a cup of coffee. And you want to say what a grandma died of what -- pot calling what did they died of what each were they when they died of it. And what other conditions did they have going in because they may have. Ultimately died of breast cancer but they may have had very heart serious heart disease -- -- -- get the whole picture and it's it's again not always easy but one look at aunts uncles grandparents siblings cousins rights and with what exactly. What is the information that we should include I mean. But that's male or female well -- not age agent -- diagnosis. -- death. Any mental health which is extremely important a lot of mental health conditions. Do run in families do have genetic predisposition -- an especially depression depression schizophrenia. Dependency issues like alcoholism runs in family -- and these are the things of people don't wanna talk about but especially I find almost what my children these are the things I want announcer -- -- -- past that point but they may not be and you want to milk to children at risk. And so do -- -- pregnancy issues those are some of the questions the people don't want to talk about and especially when it's in a family they kind of want to keep them hidden alcoholism and depression so I'm incidents carefully get bad information out. And I think -- the way to do it is really just to let them know why you're doing you're not doing it because you're being nosy you just want to have the gossipy what you want you to tell somebody else about it and you're doing it because. You want to protect your children be. You know and family history really helps us. You knew this. Early early detection early diagnosis maybe not preventing a disease necessarily but the earlier you can detect something the better including mental health and dependency issues and -- have some words of comfort over so many of us out there who maybe we have no idea. Once out of our family where I come from their so many families these days that. No -- reproductive assistance of some kind or another so people shouldn't worry if they don't have the full picture now with your adopted evening news either you have an adopted child and this really is just part of the whole picture -- I do think it will be important to talk to your doctor about the fact that you don't know. Yes because that may also change things -- they didn't you made see that you wanna go for a cardiac screening earlier because you don't know your family history to life and maybe not but it's all very individual thing but it's not the be all end all. So don't be lulled into an incentive confidence because you have no family you know you know struck him history and a terrible diseases and don't be terrified. Because you do. And don't worry if you don't have any history at all it's a great thing to have its part of the puzzle it doesn't tells the whole story though he's just he's absolutely thank you so much Africa and -- --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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