Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States. This prevalence has prompted experts to update their screening guidelines: the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), in particular, recommends that adults with average risk for colorectal cancer get routine screening starting at age 45.
However, does the same recommendation apply to people who have strong risk factors—most notably, family history? If colon cancer runs in your family, when should you begin screening tests with your gastroenterologist? Find out the answers below.
Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines for People with Family History
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided the following recommendations for people who have a family history of colon cancer:
- Start at 40 years of age, or 10 years before the age when the immediate family member received a colon cancer diagnosis;
- Only use colonoscopy (instead of other screening methods);
- Undergo more frequent colonoscopy; and
- Receive genetic counseling.
Common Causes of Hereditary Colon Cancer
Some people carry gene mutations for rare disorders, which put them at an even greater risk of developing colon cancer.
Up to five percent of all colon cancers arise in the setting of well-defined inherited syndromes, two of which are outlined below.
- Lynch Syndrome
Lynch syndrome, also referred to as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is the most common culprit in hereditary colon cancer, accounting for up to 4 percent of all cases.
The term “nonpolyposis” denotes that colon cancer can occur even when there is either only a small number of polyps or none at all.
If your family carries a gene mutation for Lynch syndrome, and you test positive for the mutation, your gastroenterologist will likely recommend that you start colonoscopy in your early 20s, or 2 to 5 years earlier than the age when the youngest person in your family got diagnosed.
- Classic Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (Classic FAP)
Classic FAP is a condition in which hundreds to thousands of precursor lesions (adenomas) grow in the colon. With age, the number and size of polyps increase and become more problematic.
People who have FAP develop colon polyps in their mid-teens and, by age 35, will have developed multiple colon polyps. If FAP is not detected and treated early, the person has a nearly 100 percent lifetime risk of developing colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people who test positive for genetic change associated with FAP begin colonoscopy between 10 and 15 years of age. Furthermore, experts recommend that people with FAP undergo colectomy (surgical removal of their colon) in their 20s as a preventive strategy.
Colon Cancer Screening in Westlake and Brooklyn, OH
If you’re nearing the regular screening age for colon cancer or if the disease runs in your family, please contact us here at North Shore Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Centers for an appointment with one of our providers.
Highly committed to providing our patients with compassionate and leading-edge care, our board-certified gastroenterologists specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of the entire range of conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system—including colon cancer.
Call our friendly staff to schedule your consultation or colorectal cancer screening appointment at (440) 808-1212. You may also use this simple but secure appointment request form.