Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the US. It usually begins as polyps in the colon, which then develop into cancer. The disease is treatable if caught early.
However, if you are concerned about your colon cancer risk, and may be too young to be routinely screened for colon cancer, genetic testing may help in assessing hereditary risk and planning for your healthcare.
How Prevalent is Colon Cancer in the US?
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US, not counting skin cancer. This year, there were 106,970 new cases of colon cancer and 46,050 new cases of rectal cancer.
What Increases Your Risk for Colon Cancer?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing colon cancer, which include:
Colon cancer is more common in adults over the age of 50. However, more and more individuals under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with colon cancer nowadays.
Having a family member or relative with colon cancer puts you at an increased risk for the disease. Your risk is higher if your relation was diagnosed with it at a young age.
Certain inherited syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome and Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), can also increase your risk of colon cancer, and genetic testing can test for these abnormal genes.
How Does Genetic Testing for Colon Cancer Work?
Genetic testing for colon cancer can help identify if a person is at a higher risk of developing the disease. The most common genetic tests are for Lynch syndrome and FAP. These tests look for specific mutations in one of several genes associated with these conditions.
If you are found to have a mutation in one of these genes, it means you are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer, which changes your doctor’s recommendations for colon cancer screening, such as starting it early.
Genetic testing for colon cancer is usually performed by a genetic counselor, using a small sample of blood or saliva.
What is the Advantage of Colon Cancer Genetic Testing?
Advantages of colon cancer genetic testing include the following:
- It can identify specific genetic mutations that increase your risk of developing colon cancer.
- It can help determine your family members are also at risk and should undergo screening.
While colon cancer genetic testing can provide valuable information about genetic risk factors, a colonoscopy remains the most effective method for detecting and preventing colon cancer. This method allows the doctor to visualize the entire colon and remove precancerous polyps right away.
Gastroenterologists in Westlake and Brooklyn, Ohio
Our gastroenterologists at North Shore Gastroenterology offer stool-based exams and visual exams for colon cancer screening and make recommendations for better colon health. Our GI specialists can help you decide if genetic testing is right for you.