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Take Time to Learn Your Family's Medical History

Why knowing your family's medical history makes a difference.

family history
Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

Knowing your family's health history can be life-saving.

“Many health screenings are based on your family's health history,” says Danielle Snyder, D.O., an Obstetrics/Gynecology physician with The Iowa Clinic. “If you are unsure about conditions family members have had, you may not qualify for certain screenings.”

Specifically, in Dr. Snyder's OB/GYN practice, “Certain heredity conditions increase patients' risk of ovarian, breast, and other cancers. We see patients every day who don't know what their grandmother or mother died from, or what health issues their other first-degree relatives had. Unless we know, we can't order the right screenings.” First-degree relatives include parents, siblings, and children.

But providing the right care is critical. “I advise those patients to go home, gather the information, and then let us know,” says Snyder.

If you don't gather the information for yourself, do it for your family. Share your health history with your children. After all, not knowing your medical history may prevent them from getting the screenings they need.

The U.S. Surgeon General's online “My Family Health Portrait” tool can help you gather and record your family's health information, save it to your own computer, and share with family members. Visit

If you're interested in discussing whether you may be a candidate for genetic testing, please call 515.875.9290.

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