Friday, January 11, 2008

Finding Out if Cancer is All in the Family

There has been an increasing awareness of genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer in the recent years – testing that is available at the Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center.

The area where genetic testing awareness is lacking is in colon cancer. There is a test available to detect hereditary causes of colon cancers in families, which may heavily impact screening and prevention.

There are three genes that, if mutated, may leave a person susceptible to colon cancer early in life, along with other cancers. The red flags of personal and family history include:

· Colorectal cancer before age 50
· Endometrial cancer before age 50
· Two or more HNPCC related cancers in an individual or family

HNPCC, or Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer, is a syndrome that increases an individual’s chance of developing colorectal, endometrial and other cancers. Other HNPCC related cancers are gastric, ovarian, ureter/renal pelvis, biliary tract, small bowel, pancreas, brain and sebaceous adenoma.

The syndrome of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) may leave an individual with an almost 100 percent chance of developing colorectal cancer. This syndrome is suspected when a person has 100 or more colon polyps. Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP) is a form of FAP, where a person has 10 or more colon polyps.

Screening for these syndromes is an essential step in the prevention of colorectal and certain other cancers. A simple blood test is all it takes to uncover a hereditary cancer syndrome in a family. If your personal and/or family history is suggestive of any of these syndromes, call your doctor, or myself at 223-5945 ext. 1669.

--Lindsay Mattino
Clinical Research Coordinator and Lung Cancer Navigator,
Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center

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