Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, affecting approximately 1 in every 22 people.
Though the majority of colon cancers occur randomly, at least 5-10% of all colon cancers are due to an inherited, genetic risk in the family. Unfortunately, many people who carry genetic predispositions to colon cancer never know they are at risk until they develop cancer.
Genetic counseling, paired with genetic testing, can identify genetic predispositions to colon cancer before it ever develops. Armed with information, we can enhance colon cancer surveillance to help these patients avoid ever developing the disease. For those who have already had colon cancer, genetic testing can provide an explanation for why they developed the cancer and help to protect the patient from future cancers.
There are many warnings signs that genetic counselors use to evaluate families for the presence of an underlying genetic predisposition to colon cancer. These warnings signs can help the genetic counselor determine the best genetic test to offer and identify the family members who are at risk. Some of these warnings signs include:
Multiple relatives on the same side of the family with colon cancer
Family member with colon cancer under the age of 60
Family member with multiple colon polyps (precancerous bumps)
Multiple types of cancer in the same relative
Know Your Risk!
If you are concerned that you or your family member may carry a predisposition to colon cancer, or any other cancer, the first step is to gather as much information as you can about your family history of cancer and schedule a genetic counseling appointment!
About the author:
Anna Victorine, MS, CGC is a board-certified genetic counselor at Provenance Healthcare. She currently specializes in cancer genetics and personalized medicine. Appointments with Anna can be made by calling 702-478-2524.