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Karmanos encourages people to know their family history to promote awareness of health risks

Karmanos Cancer Institute is promoting National Family Health History Day Thursday, November 22, coinciding with Thanksgiving, and is encouraging everyone to know their own family medical history. Nancie Petrucelli, M.S., C.G.C., senior genetic counselor at Karmanos says that when it comes to hereditary cancer syndromes, knowing your family’s medical history can make you aware of your own need for early screening.

“It’s important to document your family’s medical history,” she says. “What has happened in the past can oftentimes predict the medical future for you and your relatives.”

Hereditary cancer syndromes are caused by an alteration or mutation in genes that are inherited from parents. Though heredity accounts for only 5 to 10 percent of all cancer cases, families that have passed on a gene mutation have an increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer.
Karmanos offers genetic cancer testing and counseling services to those concerned about an increased risk of cancer due to heredity. Genetic testing usually requires the patient to come in for a blood test, in conjunction with a doctor’s appointment and genetic counseling session to educate individuals about genetic testing before actually getting the test. A detailed family history is taken as part of this process as well.  The patient then comes back for a follow-up appointment to discuss results and any specific steps that should be taken if the results are positive for a gene mutation. Depending on a person’s results, Karmanos also offers support information and advice, as well as annual consultations.

For more information about the service or to schedule an appointment, call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-KARMANOS) or visit

The Surgeon General has designated Thanksgiving as National Family Health History Day since 2004 because it is an occasion when family members gather and can talk about and write down family-related health problems.

To help organize family health information, the Surgeon General has created a free Web site to make it easy for individuals to create a portrait of their family's health. My Family Health Portrait is a secure tool that takes around 20 minutes to create a unique family health portrait.  
After completing the questions, the Web site creates a personalized “family health tree” that can be saved to a home computer. From there, family members can update information at any time. The tool can be shared with other family members, who can add their own health information to the portrait. The portrait also can be an informative tool to share with a health care provider. 

All information remains private.  The federal Web site does not retain the information once the tool has been used to assemble it. Go to to create a family health portrait today.

Top Ten Reasons to Know Your Family History 

10. It’s a FREE medical screening that you can do in the privacy of your own home. 

9. It’s a great way to get to know relatives in older and younger generations. 

8. It's a good way to know your risk for conditions seen in relatives. 

7. Because when you need to know, they may not be there to ask. 

6. Because with a little help from the past, you can change the future. 

5. Because it’s not just recipes that get passed down in families. 

4. It’s a priceless gift to leave to your children. 

3. It doesn’t cost a thing and it could save your life! 

2. Because what you don’t know CAN hurt you. 

1. Because every family has a story, but not every family has YOUR story.

© 2014 Karmanos Cancer Institute Pencil
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.