What to Know If You Have a Family History of Colorectal Cancer

Family history of colorectal cancer in AtlantaIt is estimated that one in four patients have a family history of colorectal cancer; that is, they have an immediate family member or multiple family members with cancer or polyps. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, it is very important to take precautions. Piedmont Colorectal Associates explains what you need to know in this blog post.

Understanding Your Risk

If an immediate member of your family (e.g., mom, dad, brother, sister) has had colorectal cancer, you have a higher risk of cancer than someone with a second-degree relative who has had cancer. The risk is even higher if your relative was diagnosed with cancer before the age of 45, or if more than one immediate family member is affected.

Colorectal cancers can run in the family because of inherited genes, shared environmental factors or a combination of the two. According to the American Cancer Society, about 5 percent of people with colorectal cancer have inherited gene changes or mutations that cause family cancer syndromes. The two most common family cancer syndromes associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer are Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).

If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, there are a number of genetic tests that can be performed to determine whether the cancers are because of a genetic mutation passed down through the family. Having a genetic test performed can help you and other members of your family understand your risk and how often you should get screened.

When to Get Screened

People with an average risk of colorectal cancer should get screened beginning age 45. However, if you have a family history, you should get screened beginning age 40, or 10 years before the youngest case of colon cancer in your immediate family, whichever is earlier. Regular screenings are essential to detecting early signs of colorectal cancer, because it is easier to treat and cure in the early stages. Speak to a specialist to find out how often you should get screened and which type of screening test is best for you.

To get screened for colorectal cancer or discuss your risk for cancer, please schedule a personal appointment with Piedmont Colorectal Associates. Call (404) 351-7900 or email our office today.