Unknown: What To Do With a Limited Family History
Most people diagnosed with colorectal cancer have a sporadic, or nonhereditary cause for the disease, whereas an estimated 2-5% of all colon cancer patients have an underlying inherited, genetic predisposition. (Find out more about Lynch syndrome and other genetic tests by watching our March 2016 Webinar.) Medical professionals who see patients with strong family histories of colorectal cancer often recommend genetic testing to identify whether or not a defined inherited syndrome, like Lynch, is present. If it is, it can support a more proactive approach to prevention, like earlier age screening, for example.
Adult adoptees, adults without close familial relationships, or individuals with family estrangement, however, may have limited access to their biological family’s health history. While a person’s genes are not the only factor that determines health outcomes, risk of CRC rises sharply with the presence of some genetic factors – and knowing family history can help determine the need to speak to a genetic counselor. If this resonates with you, take time to discuss with your doctor, especially if you notice signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, and listen in to our November Taboo-ty Podcast episode: Unknown. What to do when you’re missing pieces of your family’s health history.
Lisen Axell is a genetic counselor. She holds a master’s degree in genetic counseling from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She specializes in cancer genetics, having worked in the field for the last 15 years. She is an Up to Date co-author with Dr. Dennis Ahnen on Lynch syndrome. Ms. Axell has worked on a number of projects to increase identification of Coloradoans at the highest risk for cancer, to promote cancer early detection and prevention.