If you are wondering what this question means, or if you wonder why we are asking it, it’s time to educate yourself. We will help to explain what to do when you have a family history of colon cancer, why it’s important, and where to start your education.
How Important Is Your Family History?
Let’s start with the fact that 1 in 4 colon cancer patients have a family history of colon cancer.
It is extremely beneficial to find out about your own family history. Most of us don’t know about these things until we ask, so educate yourself and discover if you have any risk and how critical the risk might be.
Find out if any immediate member of your family has had colon cancer. We mean at least one person: a parent, brother, sister, or child. Find out if they were diagnosed before the age of 40.
Do you have multiple second degree relatives who had colon cancer or advanced polyps? This includes aunts, uncles, grandparents and more. There is an increased risk of colon cancer if they were diagnosed before the age of 50.
Your risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with the following circumstances:
- You have a cluster of relatives who had colon cancer. This is known as familial colon cancer.
- You inherited a harmful DNA mutation from a parent. This affects 5-7% of all colon cancer patients.
Once you have completed your research about former or current members of your family and their vulnerability to colon cancer, consider your personal risk. You may be of average risk for colon cancer or high risk.
What To Do With This Information
Testing for colon cancer is the #1 way to prevent colon cancer, and it is highly treatable if caught early.
As you compile how heredity might affect your susceptibility to colon cancer, add in several other factors as well. If you have family members with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease like Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease, this increases your risk.
Talk with Colorectal Surgical Associates about which category you fit into: average or high risk.
A screening test looks for cancer before you have any symptoms. There are multiple ways to be screened for colon cancer. Below are some general guidelines for screening.
- Start screenings at age 45
- Those with good health and with a life expectancy of 10 years continue screening until 75
- Age 76 to 85 at patients discretion in consult with your doctor
- Over age 85 no screening needed
High risk (including African Americans)
- Start screening before age 45
- Some patients may need to start immediately with colonoscopy and have them more often