Does Your Family Member Need to Be Screened?
When a person or his or her blood relative has been diagnosed with some type of colorectal cancer, the family undoubtedly faces a great deal of anxiety. Not only do colon cancer patients and their loved ones face the difficulties of fighting the existing disease, but relatives may worry about their own health. Is colon cancer hereditary? If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, does your family member need to be screened?
The answer to whether colon cancer is hereditary is not black and white; in fact, only 5-10% of colorectal cancer types have shown a genetic link between parents and children. There are two primary types of colon cancer that are heritable: hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC or “Lynch syndrome”) familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). A few rare conditions have also shown some heritability, such as MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP) and attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP).
While the very scientific-sounding names of heritable colorectal cancers may seem intimidating, the overall point is this: if you’ve been diagnosed with one of these types of cancer, your family member—especially your children, siblings, or parents—may want to be screened.
Regardless of familial cancer status, the American College of Gastroenterologists recommend a colonoscopy and colorectal cancer screening every 10 years for those aged 50 or older. Fortunately, a screening for colorectal cancer can be easily scheduled with a clinical gastroenterologist. A board certified gastroenterologist will not only help patients determine whether they are at risk for colorectal cancer, but also work with patients one-on-one to maintain ongoing GI tract health.