Colon Cancer Runs in my Family
It wasn’t entirely a surprise to Robert — he goes by Terry — when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. His father and brother each had been diagnosed with polyps, which is why at age 47, still shy of the recommended age for a baseline colonoscopy and no real symptoms, he pushed his physician that one was necessary. He was right. He had colon cancer.
Terry underwent a successful colon resection and completed six or seven of a recommended 10 rounds of chemotherapy before he decided he “had had enough.” He did well for the next four years, then started having pain in his back. Doctors this time diagnosed him with ureteral cancer, a rare form of cancer generally treated like bladder cancer. And this time, Terry was surprised.
“While I was going through radiation and chemotherapy for this bout, my doctor recommended genetic testing,” Terry said. “That’s how I came to find out I have Lynch syndrome and was assigned a genetic counselor.”“I’ve been feeling good, so without screening, I would have never suspected.”
Lynch syndrome (HNPCC or Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer) is an autosomal dominant genetic condition that puts affected patients at high risk of colon cancer and other cancers, including endometrium, ovary, stomach, small intestine, hepatobiliary tract, upper urinary tract and brain, as well as skin neoplasms. The increased risk for these cancers is caused by inherited mutations that impair DNA mismatch repair.
No One Wants To Get Diagnosed With Cancer, But You Can't Fight If You Don't Know
Having been identified, Terry describes it far more simply: “Once you’ve had colon cancer, there’s a chance you could get cancer somewhere else, so it’s all about screening.”
Dutifully, he has been undergoing screening every three months and, upon his most recent screening, learned his utereral cancer has advanced to Stage IV, located in the lining of the lung.
So right now, at age 54, he has a lot to think about — whether he’s up for another round of chemotherapy, especially when for all intents and purposes, he’s feeling good. But mostly, he’s been thinking about his 26-year-old son, who he knows has a 50-50 chance of having Lynch syndrome. He wants his son to be tested and to receive pre- and post-test counseling.
“While the news was a little bleak this last time, I would recommend genetic testing to anyone who thinks they have this. The way they break it down for you — it’s very understandable,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good, so without screening, I would have never suspected.”
For more information on genetic testing or to schedule an appointment, call OhioHealth CancerCall at (614) 566-4321 or 1-800-752-9119.