Colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world. But with early detection, colon cancer is highly treatable. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may be interested in a new questionnaire that helps decide whether genetic testing is for you.
If you're not familiar with where your colon is...and what it does...take a look: It is the last section of the digestive tract, and its primary function is to store food waste, water and other fluids before they leave your body as waste.
At least 940,000 cases of colon cancer are diagnosed each year. Almost 500,000 people die of the bowel disease yearly. The World Health Organization lists the major cause of colon cancer as a diet rich in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein. Lack of exercise is a contributing factor.
Those are the disturbing facts that affect most people. Fewer than the five percent of new colon cancers are traced to genetic makeup. But for those who do have a family history of the disease, Dr. Sapna Syngal of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute says genetic testing may make sense:
"The risks of developing cancer if you carry a mutation in one of these genes are extraordinarily high. The risk of developing colon cancer is 60 to 80 percent."
The Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts has put together a Web-based questionnaire that is designed to help decide whether a blood test to confirm your genetic risk is for you.
Dr. Syngal continues, "The genetic test doesn't mean that you're going to get cancer. It just means that you're at risk for cancer and hopefully with this information we'll be able to prevent cancer from ever happening."
The questions deal with personal and family history. The final score will confirm whether it's advisable to take the blood test. Taking the test under the guidance of your physician is strongly recommended. The questions are in English, but there are plans to make them available eventually in other languages.
A colonoscopy procedure, which allows the doctor to look inside the colon for signs of abnormalities, is still considered the most effective means of detection.
Early diagnosis and treatment now mean there is a 50 percent survival rate of at least five years.
So, if you and your family members are among those with the inherited trait, the web address is www.dfci.org/premm or contact the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts for more information.