While preparing to give a lecture on colon cancer for my curriculum study I came across another piece of evidence that should give most patients pause. I hope my readers take this to heart and begin assembling their own family histories. This week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine there is an article surveying patients about their experiences and screening offered for colon cancer prevention. The first survey identified patients with a family history of colon cancer and the second survey evaluated the care they received by their internist. The care was given at a Harvard affiliate! Here's what they found:
- Only 39% of patients under 50 were asked about family history
- Only 45% of patients with a significant family history had been screened appropriately
- Only 46% of patients knew that family history of colon cancer can indicate a need for earlier cancer screening!
These averages might be good in baseball, but we are talking about human life here!
I am sure that with the database options in these new electronic medical records we will see more of our shortcomings. Especially when it comes to genetic care. That is if tracking family history is an option for an EMR. Most programs have woefully inadequate genetic options.
Here's what I will tell these young doctors: You better ask for family history, because the patient will not tell you they are at risk!
Here's what I will tell you: Please take your family's history and give it to the doctor, because they likely won't ask! More importantly, educate yourself about screening at the United States Preventative Services Task Force(USPSTF)