Thanksgiving Day is not only a time to gather with friends and family to eat a sumptuous meal and count blessings. It’s also National Family Health History Day, an annual event that also takes place on Thanksgiving. The idea is to take a day when everyone in your family is assembled and discuss the family health history, specifically any occurrence of colorectal cancer. Healthcare providers encourage you to use this day to share and care about this and other serious diseases.
National Family Health History Day - History
Two organizations merged to fight colorectal and colon cancers
The Colon Cancer Alliance merged with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to provide a supportive network and seek research funding to find a cure.
Thanksgiving became a vehicle for family health discussions
The Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving as Family Health History Day. It's a reminder to assess health risks for illnesses known to run in families — like high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.
Video chip technology paved the way for cancer surgery improvements
Video chip technology was introduced for laparoscopy, providing a major progressive step in colorectal cancer surgery
The colonoscope was introduced
The colonoscope was developed thanks to fiber optics and engineering advances, making it easier to see signs of cancer in the body.
How to Observe National Family Health History Day
1. Draw a genealogy tree
Grab some colored pens and have poster board ready. This is a great day to put together a genealogy tree that adds information about the family's health history. Get the elders to provide as much knowledge as they can.
2. Put together a binder of family health history
Do it "old school" and put everything in a binder. Make colorful copies and distribute to everyone so all the information is accessible and easy to read for family members as well as health care providers.
3. Assign everyone to write down any health concerns to share
Before Thanksgiving, ask every family member (even the little ones) to write down whatever questions or concerns they have about the family's health history. You would be surprised at how curious children are about family history. On National Family Health History Day, take the questions out and start discussing.
5 Reasons Why Families Need To Know Their Health History
1. Some family members may have died young
If you have chronic conditions that run in your family, it's important to discuss the family's health history, especially if there were family members who died before the conditions became evident.
2. Many families tend to get these diseases
The most common conditions that run in families are heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (including colon, stomach, endometrium, lung, bladder, breast, and skin) as well as high blood pressure.
3. European royal families were cursed with hemophilia
Many European royal families either had hemophilia, a blood clotting disorder known as the “Royal” disease, or carried the gene — including Queen Victoria and many of her descendants — as well as the son of Czar Nicholas II of Russia.
4. Life span can be hereditary
Research shows that someone’s life span is mainly determined by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
Why National Family Health History Day is Important
A. It's about family
Family time is special and Thanksgiving is one of the most wonderful days of the years simply because everyone comes together to share a meal, watch a game, and rehash old family stories. But this year on Thanksgiving, also known as National Family Health History Day, spend some time educating each other. Young people often don't realize how important it is to know about hereditary factors that could cause trouble down the road when they marry or have children. This year, in between the pecan pie and kickoff, have a serious discussion about your family health history.
B. Know the risk factors for colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the bowels. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and the third leading cause of cancer death for men. Some of the risk factors include obesity, diets high in red meat, age, sex, and most importantly, a family history of colorectal cancer. That history is increased when a first-degree relative including a parent, sibling, or child is affected. That's why it's so important to discuss family health history when the entire family is present.
C. It's preventable
It's important to note that many of the risk factors for colorectal cancer are preventable. However, the best way to get the jump on this disease is to have a colonoscopy. Screening guidelines vary for those with high risk, but most healthcare providers recommend earlier cancer screenings, especially when there is a family history of this specific kind of cancer.