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      Colorectal Cancer: Know Your Family History and Risk

      Do you have a family history of colorectal (colon) cancer? What exactly is considered a “family history” of colon cancer? These are very important questions that everyone should know the answer to.

      According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when you combine statistics from men and women. Nearly 53,000 people are expected to die this year from colon cancer. And the devastation of this disease is often hereditary. As many as one in three people with colon cancer have a family member who has been diagnosed with the disease.

      While colon cancer can happen without a family history, many times it’s hereditary and if you have family members who have been diagnosed, you are more likely to receive a diagnosis as well. While the screening age starts at 45, those with a family history need to start getting colonoscopies sooner.

      Have a conversation with your family members

      To determine whether you are at risk, you should create a family health history. Ask your family members including parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews if they have a history of polyps or have been diagnosed with colon cancer. Knowing their age at the time of their diagnosis is important, too. Any history makes your risk higher, but if you have a first-degree relative with colorectal cancer such as a parent or sibling your chances of being diagnosed is higher. If that relative was diagnosed with cancer when they were younger than 50, the risk increases as well. Be sure to collect details from both your mother’s and father’s side of the family.

      In addition, if you or anyone in your family has Lynch syndrome, an inherited genetic condition that makes you more likely to get colorectal and other types of cancer, you should share that information with your doctor.

      Each situation is unique, so it’s best to share your health history information with your doctor to let them determine if you need to have your colonoscopy sooner than age 45, or if you are at a higher risk for colon cancer and need to be screened more frequently than the standard 10 years.

      Know your history, lower your risk

      There are a number of reasons why it’s important to know your family health history. Not only does it help your doctor determine when your screening should begin, but doctors can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer by knowing this information as well. For example, your doctor can help you determine the appropriate timing of a colonoscopy to ensure polyps are discovered and removed. A colonoscopy is still considered the gold standard of screening tests because your gastroenterologist can remove precancerous polyps during the procedure.

      Follow the guidelines

      Just because you have a family history of colorectal cancer or lynch syndrome doesn’t mean you will get colon cancer. It does, however, mean that it’s crucial that you follow the guidelines and your doctor’s recommendations and get screened.

      Colon cancer screening starts at age 45 or sooner for those with a family history. A colonoscopy could save your life. Make an appointment today by calling 815-397-7340.