Have You Had 'The Talk' With Your Dad, CAP Asks

“Imagine talking to Dirty Harry about his colon.

CAP Members Provide the Right Questions For Dad – Just in Time for Father’s Day

NORTHFIELD, ILL – During June, which is National Men’s Health Month, millions of people will call or visit their dads for Father’s Day. The College of American Pathologists (CAP) suggests this Father’s Day would be the perfect time to have “the talk” with your dad. Instead of the awkward preteen talk your dad might have had with you, this version of the talk with your dad can focus on his health and your family’s health history.

“As we know, dads can be stubborn and usually hate to go to the doctor, so they just avoid it,” said CAP President Richard C. Friedberg, MD, PhD, FCAP. “Father’s Day is as good a time as any to ask your father about his health specifically or, even better, about family health history. Dad’s health history could be linked to your own future health and that of your children, so having ‘the talk’ is not just a way to turn the tables on dad, but a way to learn significant information about your own risks that could guide your health care also.”

Adrienne Lawton Hery, MD, FCAP, politely refers to her own stubborn father, Ray Lawton, as “stoic.” When Adrienne attended medical school, she would call home a few times a week; her father accommodated her medical inquiries each time she called after learning of a new malady in class. Then she suggested the colonoscopy.

“Imagine talking to Dirty Harry about his colon,” Dr. Hery said.

The colonoscopy was not a pleasant experience, including a large projection screen that allowed everyone in the room to view the procedure. Dr. Hery claims that her father refused to speak to his daughter for a week afterward. His results came back negative and at age 65, he regularly boxes and runs in 5K races.

“I’m glad I did it though, and I’ve been back for another since then,” Ray Lawton said before disputing a piece of family lore. “But it’s not true that I didn’t talk to my daughter. “It was just another hollow threat she saw straight through.”

Dr. Hery is one of several CAP members who urge everyone to ask about dad’s health and the family health history—and a Father’s Day dinner or barbecue is as good a time as any. Others offered some advice on what to ask Dad during the talk.

  • Jonathan I. Epstein, MD, FCAP, Director of Surgical Pathology, Johns Hopkins Hospital: “Ask about specific conditions and tests. If dad has prostate cancer, do remind him that is a slow-acting cancer and talk to him about all his options because active surveillance is most often better than premature surgery or unnecessary treatments.”
  • Crystal A. Moore, MD, FCAP: “Hey Dad, is everything okay, you know, down there? Prostate health is so important for men that I’d put that right on the table in talking to my father.”
  • Patrick L. Fitzgibbons, MD, FCAP, Chief Pathologist at St. Jude’s Hospital/St. Joseph Health, Southern California: “I would probably first ask when he last got his blood sugar checked. If a person is asking for him or herself, I’d ask about family genetics, starting with what’s the cancer history in the family?”
  • Annie O. Morrison, MD, FCAP: “In my experiences, grandchildren are a great way to bridge any awkwardness or gaps in conversations about money, health, etc. For example: I might say ‘Now that I'm a mom/dad, I want to make sure I'm able to be there for little Johnny...’ or ‘I want you to be healthy enough to be there for your grandchild.’”
  • Bennet I. Omalu, MD, FCAP, subject of the movie Concussion and Associate Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UC Davis Health System: “I’d ask, Daddy, how often do you see your doctor for a check-up? When I was 42 years old, I was a very sick man, although I had no symptoms whatsoever. The laboratory tests performed by the pathologist revealed my risk for a heart attack was high, my cholesterol level was very high, my blood glucose levels were prediabetic and, most of all, my blood pressure was elevated. All is stable now, but only because I went for a routine check-up, which you should do once a year, if not every six months.”
  • Lindsey Lowder, DO, FCAP: “Honestly, go straight to the source: Mom. My mother would schedule the appointment and hope my Dad would go. Sometimes, it may be better to ask for forgiveness rather than for permission.  Primary care providers will now charge a "no show" fee if you miss the appointment, so that might make it easier to find ways to get men to attend regular check-ups.”
  • Sara Jiang, MD, FCAP, assistant professor of surgical pathology and cytopathology at Duke University: “There’s been a lot of discussion lately about screening guidelines. It’s still the case that early diagnosis and treatment are better than dealing with advanced disease. So I’d ask about dad’s most recent check-up, because men are prone to ignore any signs or to schedule routine visits to the doctor.”

The doctors agree if your family history contains certain cancers or diseases, you should get tested earlier than generally recommended; for conditions like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, make sure you continually monitor those levels.

About the College of American Pathologists

As the leading organization with 18,000 board-certified pathologists, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) serves patients, pathologists, and the public by fostering and advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine worldwide. The CAP’s Laboratory Improvement Programs, initiated 65 years ago, currently has customers in more than 100 countries, accrediting more than 7,800 laboratories and providing proficiency testing to 20,000 laboratories worldwide. Find more information about the CAP at cap.org. Follow the CAP on Twitter: @pathologists.



About Us

As the leading organization for board-certified pathologists, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) serves patients, pathologists, and the public by fostering and advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine worldwide. With more than 18,000 physician members, the CAP has led laboratory accreditation for more than 50 years with more than 7,700 CAP-accredited laboratories in 50 countries.