A few years ago, my cousin Amanda told me she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. She was only 34 years old. Young, right? And then she told me her type of colon cancer is hereditary.
After my cousin’s diagnosis, her mom (my aunt) got a colonoscopy, discovering that she also had colon cancer. It turns out some members of our family carry a hereditary gene variation, called Lynch syndrome. This variation makes it more likely to develop certain type of cancers, including colon cancer.
Due to this link, my family is considered to have a higher risk for colorectal cancer. I had to consider genetic testing.
Getting Genetic Testing
I brought it up with my doctor a few years after my cousin’s diagnosis. At one of my basic yearly check-ups, I mentioned Lynch and my colon cancer family history to my doctor, expecting to get some guidance. While he listened to me, he never offered the answers to the two questions I had:
How do I get the genetic test and how much will it cost me?
After witnessing the effects of cancer on my family, I finally decided to see a new doctor this year. To my surprise, she was the one who brought up my family history and explained how she could order the genetic test and find out the cost on my behalf. Shortly after, I received genetic counseling and went through genetic testing.
Two weeks later, I got the results, which were positive. I have Lynch syndrome.
Just like my cousin, and just like my aunt, I have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, among others.
After finding the right doctors, I scheduled my first colonoscopy screening for Feb. 2017, even though I had no symptoms and am only 37 years old. However, I have a genetic predisposition to colon cancer, which can be detected early, and even preventable.
During my colonoscopy a polyp was detected and sent in for testing. My polyp was benign, which means it wasn’t cancerous, but doctors removed it right away.
By choosing to get the screening, I prevented cancer! While my screening guidelines will continue to be different from average-risk individuals, I feel good knowing that I have the opportunity to take my health into my own hands. I am a “previvor!”
If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor and ask them about genetic testing, even if you don’t have symptoms. Preventing cancer is far easier than fighting it.