THE BLOG

Sharing Your Medical History With Your Family

02/23/2015 04:22 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015

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I recently had a conversation with my sister about a medical situation that I had with one of my parathyroid glands (never heard of them before) and subsequently with my thyroid gland.

We discussed the symptoms created by the problem and she decided to discuss it with her own doctor. As a result, when she had her blood work done this time, she made certain that the necessary screening would be included and her doctor assured her that it has always been included.

However, I pointed out to her that such was the same for me but that my primary care physician had never picked up on the irregularities. It was my oncologist who had spotted the problem. I told her that we can't expect our doctors to always diagnose everything especially when we may not be experiencing any of the symptoms in the early stages. She agreed and told me that she was very grateful that I had shared the information with her or otherwise if she has the same problem, she might never have known it.

This brought to my mind that I have often thought about how private most people are when it comes to their personal health and medical situations and as a result, when I was asked to fill out the paperwork at the doctor's office that included information about my family's medical history, I really didn't know much. I knew about the big things like my dad's cancer and my brother's cancer because they were the ultimate causes of their deaths. I knew about the women on my mother's side of the family who also had cancer but that was it.

I had absolutely no idea about anything else on my mother's side of the family and absolutely nothing about my father's side of the family at all. That was rather alarming to me.

I am not saying that I want to know about everyone's personal medical history, but I know that while many adults in a family do not want to share this information with their children because they don't want to frighten them or have them worry, I think that we may do our family members a big disservice by not sharing. I know that I would appreciate knowing the diseases or problems that are a part of my family's history, not because I am afraid that I will get these diseases also but because I believe that to be educated with this information so that I can share it with my medical professionals will help them to better manage my healthcare.

What better gift could I give to my sister or my other family members than to share with them the medical situations that I encountered? It may cause them to stop and think about their own situations and perhaps alert them to the fact that they are also experiencing the same symptoms, etc. themselves and that they may want to alert their own doctors.

An alert may help to bring about an early diagnosis of a problem that left unchecked might cause greater consequences on down the line. I personally feel that the more information that I have the better I can do to take care of myself and not depend solely on my doctor and an annual physical.

So I am urging everyone to share their family's medical history with one another. It may make a huge difference to a family member with regard to the quality of life that they are currently experiencing and could ultimately save another person's life.