What is Family History?


Doctors’ offices keep a plethora of clipboards around to have their patients fill out form after form upon arrival for any sort of appointment. Beginning with name, date of birth, and contact information, these forms continue to ask a series of mundane questions until finally reaching, what some consider to be the hardest part of the form, the family history. Some may wonder why this portion of the form is even necessary. Why does it matter that Grandpa Joe had lung cancer and Grandma Louise had diabetes? It matters because certain ailments have genetic components that could affect you.

Knowing that the family history portion of medical forms is almost always a necessary part of a new doctor’s visit, it is a good idea to create a master version of a family history to keep on file at home and make copies of when it’s time for a visit to the doctor. It is hard to remember every sickness an elder may have had at times, so keeping a master list will ensure you always include all of the information.

A doctor will look at family medical history to determine if a patient is at risk for any serious ailments that someone without that disease in their family may not need to worry about. Diabetes, for instance, affects people and has a greater risk of impacting their lineage than it does someone without diabetes in their family medical history. Breast cancer is another example of a disease impacting children and grandchildren in greater numbers than those without it in their history.

Doctors use the past to help notate risks in their patient’s future. Without the knowledge of how things affected our family members before us, we would not be aware of the potential risks in front of us. We should always be mindful of our health, but special care should be taken if we are more at risk for certain ailments than others.