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Colon Cancer

Colon cancer screening by a regular doctor

03/30/2011

Question:

Several people in my family have gotten colon cancer in their 30`s & 40`s. My doctor says my brothers & sisters & I have a high risk and should be screened by a specialist. Can`t I just get screened by my regular doctor?

Answer:

Because of your family history, you are potentially at substantially increased risk for colon cancer. Your doctor is probably recommending colon cancer screening by a specialist to make sure that no precancerous polyps might be missed. Doctors who do colonoscopies frequently are better at screening because they do it so often, and they keep up on current screening techniques and recommendations.

In addition to the increased screening (colonoscopies) recommended by your doctor, you should also consider a genetics evaluation to determine whether genetic testing might help identify who in the family is truly at increased risk and who might be at lower risk. When you meet with the genetic counselor, you will discuss the pattern of cancers in your family, talk about appropriate screening (when to start colonoscopies, how often they are to be repeated), and consider genetic testing. The genetic counselor can help you think about how to start genetic testing in your family, who to talk to about this, and how to open up the topic for discussion. You can find a genetic counselor by going to the websites for the National Society of Genetic Counselors or the National Cancer Institute.

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Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University