When you visit a primary care physician, they’ll often ask questions about the health of your parents or blood relatives. They do this because a number of health conditions can have a genetic component, making you predisposed to certain hereditary conditions. This is especially true about specific types of cancers, which is why we want to use today’s blog to talk about Lynch syndrome and hereditary colorectal cancer.
What Is Lynch Syndrome?
Lynch syndrome, also referred to as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is a health condition that makes an individual more susceptible to developing certain types of cancers. HNPCC is the most common underlying cause of colorectal cancer.
Lynch syndrome is caused by an issue in one of five specific genes, in MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2 or EPCAM, which ends up affecting your body’s ability to process, identify and fix cellular mutations or deficiencies. When working correctly, the five previously named genes help to prevent the development of certain cancers, but in patients with Lynch syndrome, your cells can’t correct these problems, causing them to eventually replicate and create more flawed cells that can turn into cancer.
Research suggests that Lynch syndrome has a 50 percent chance of being passed down from parents to children. When a person is a carrier for the condition, they are at an increased risk for developing specific cancers at an earlier age, oftentimes in their 30s and 40s. The majority of carriers are likely to develop colorectal cancer by the age of 70.
Lynch syndrome carriers are at an increased risk for the following types of cancer by the age of 50:
- Colorectal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Breast cancer
- Skin cancer
Symptoms And Treatment
Symptoms associated with early or middle stage colorectal cancer include:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bloody stool
- Feelings of fullness
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, connect with your primary care physician or a gastrointestinal specialist like Dr. Bhatti. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Lynch syndrome contributes to 4,000 new cases of colon cancer each year, so you need to watch for symptoms and have regular monitoring if you are a carrier.
If your specialist wants to learn more about your genetic makeup, they may order a blood test. This can allow them to determine if an individual carries a mutation that can be passed down in one of the genes associated with Lynch syndrome. If you are diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, your doctor will walk you through the next steps. There is currently no cure for the condition, but if you are currently healthy, your doctor will work with you to develop a regular screening schedule in early adulthood. If you have developed cancer, treatment will be based on the normal course of action for that specific type of cancer.
You will undergo screening more frequently than the average person, and while your risk of certain cancers is also greater, regular screening can help to catch and treat cancers in their infancy. You will get familiar with colonoscopies and endoscopies, but they will become your best ally in catching any issues before they become a major problem.
For more information about Lynch syndrome or colorectal cancer screening or treatment, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti Surgery today at (952) 368-3800.