Knowing Your Risks Can Help Keep You Healthy
In most cases, the direct cause of colon cancer is not known. But some people are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with this disease. These people are born with a certain gene that doesn’t function correctly. This is called a gene mutation, and it can run in families.
When colon cancer happens because of a gene mutation it’s called hereditary colon cancer. By looking at your family’s history of health problems, also called your family history, you can learn if you are at higher than average risk for this type of colon cancer. If so, you can take steps to find it early when it’s easier to treat or even prevent it from occurring.
Know Your Family History
Your family history can give you clues about your colon cancer risk. Family history includes health conditions in your close blood relatives—your mother, father, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and first cousins.
With these relatives in mind, make a list of any who have or had colon cancer, uterine cancer or both. Include their relationship to you (for example, mother, sister, etc.), which cancer or cancers they had and their age when the cancer was found.
Even if you don’t know your complete family history, write down what you do know. Any information can help determine your risk.
Learn Your Risk
With the information from your family history list, answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
- Do you have a mother, father, brother, sister or child who has or had colon cancer?
- Do you have a mother, father, brother, sister or child who has or had more than 10 polyps (growths on the inside of the colon that are usually removed during a colonoscopy)?
- Do you have a mother or sister who has or had uterine cancer?
- Do you have a close blood relative whose colon cancer was found before age 50?
- Do you have a close blood relative whose uterine cancer was found before age 50?
- Do you have a close blood relative that had colon cancer at two different times?
- Do you have a close blood relative that has or had both colon and uterine cancers?
- Have you or a close blood relative ever had a genetic test that showed an increased risk of cancer?
Take Steps to Stay Healthy
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be at risk for hereditary colon cancer. However, even people with no family history of colon cancer or uterine cancer can still have hereditary risks for this condition. That makes it important to talk with your doctor about your risks.
Your doctor can give you more information and recommend tests such as a colonoscopy, which can find colon cancer early. This test can also prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps that can become cancerous. Also, remember that even if you do have a risk for hereditary colon cancer, you may never get this disease.
If you think you may be at risk for hereditary colon cancer, contact Gastroenterology at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center at 781-744-8740.
*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.