Today, AT-GC is creating a blog about colon cancer awareness. Almost everyone we know has lost a loved one to cancer. The fight to defeat cancer continues daily. March is a month to recognize colon cancer.
Wear a Blue Shirt or Ribbon to Support Colon Cancer Awareness
Wear a blue shirt for ribbon to support colon cancer awareness wear a blue shirt or ribbon. Blue ribbons and blue shirts for Colon and Rectal Cancer Awareness show our support for those who have been diagnosed with or died from colon cancer.
Colon cancer is often known as the sneaky cancer – unlike some cancers, there are often little to no symptoms until the cancer progresses. As we enjoy our school spring breaks, the first day of spring, and hopefully a little more sunshine, let’s support colon cancer awareness month.
About Colon Cancer
How Long Does It Take for High-Risk Polyps to Lead to Cancer?
Colon cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. It typically starts as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum, called a polyp. A polyp has a higher chance of turning into cancer if it is larger than 1 cm in size or if the polyp’s tissue is abnormal under a microscope. Even though polyps do not always turn into cancer, if they do, polyps can take up to 10-15 years to become cancerous.
Colon Cancer Most Commonly Affects Men and Women Age 50+
Colon cancer can affect both men and women and is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
More than 90% of colon cancers occur in people who are age 50 or older.
The overall lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is 1/23 for men and 1/25 for women.
Who Is Most Likely to Get Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer most commonly affects those with certain risk factors, such as individuals with:
- A personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Chron’s disease, or ulcerative colitis (UC).
- 2+ alcoholic drinks per day or frequent smoking.
- High consumption of processed foods and red meats, especially with infrequent vegetable and fruit consumption.
- A sedentary lifestyle or obesity.
Colon Cancer and Genetics
Does Cancer Run in the Family? Some Colorectal Cancers Are Hereditary.
Commonly, people at risk for genetic forms of colorectal cancer have:
- A relative with colorectal cancer diagnosed at an early age, such as <50 years of age.
- More than one family member with a history of colorectal cancer.
- A family history of Lynch syndrome, FAP, MAP, juvenile polyposis, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, or other genetic conditions
- A personal or family history of other cancers, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or endometrial cancer.
- Personal or family history of certain types of polyps.
The majority of cases of colon cancer happen randomly; however, sometimes certain cancers, including colon cancers, run in families. About 20-33% of people with colorectal cancer have a family history of colorectal cancer.
Hereditary colon cancers occur in about 5% of all colon cancer diagnoses. A genetic form of colon cancer means that a gene mutation (or mistake in your DNA coding of your body) is passed from generation to generation in your family.
Family members could potentially have up to a 50% chance of inheriting that gene mutation. If you were found to have a gene mutation, your risk of colon cancer, or additional cancers, would be higher compared to the general population.
Lynch Syndrome, FAP, Juvenile Polyposis, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS), and MUTYH-Associated Polyposis (MAP)
While there is still a lot of research being done on colon cancer and the genetics behind both sporadic and hereditary colon cancer, we do know of quite a few well-defined genetic conditions associated with colon cancer.
Lynch syndrome accounts for 3% of colon cancers and can also include uterine, stomach, and ovarian cancer.
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is responsible for 1% of all colon cancers. FAP, along with juvenile polyposis syndrome, are both conditions that can cause someone to have potentially hundreds of polyps in their colon, which increases their risk of developing colon cancer from those polyps.
MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP) is a recessive condition that causes polyps and leads to an increased risk of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer and thyroid cancer.
Patient Video Story: Find out more about attenuated-FAP with AT-GC genetic counselor, Shruti Shenbagam, CGC as she interviews Dan Shockley, a hereditary colon cancer warrior. In the wake of adversity, Dan has been resilient and is spending his time giving back to the community.
Video available on AT-GC’s Youtube Channel HERE.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Colon cancer can be sneaky, and the genetic forms of colon cancer increase your risk. Luckily, we have great methods for screening of colon cancer. There are 5 main methods of screening, but we will focus on the golden standard, colonoscopy.
Most people when they think of a colonoscopy think of wanting to do pretty much anything else other than signing up for this procedure. A colonoscopy requires drinking a liquid to clear out your colon. The next day, a colonoscope is sent through the rectum and colon to look for polyps or any other abnormalities. While it may not be pleasant, this procedure can look for polyps and remove them, potentially saving lives.
When Should I Begin Screening for Colorectal Cancer?
It is recommended to have a colonoscopy at the age of 50, unless you have a family history of colon cancer.
In the case of a family history of colon cancer, you should have a colonoscopy earlier. Your first colonoscopy should occur 10 years before the earliest age of the person diagnosed in your family with colon cancer.
This March, remember those that are fighting colon cancer, those who died from colon cancer, and those trying to cure it. Let’s celebrate all the progress we have made and hope that we can continue the journey to end colon cancer.
Certified Genetic Counseling for Hereditary Colorectal Cancer from AT-GC
If you or close family members have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer that may be hereditary, contact Advanced Tele-Genetic Counseling to discuss your genetic risk assessment.