Should I Get Genetic Testing for Colon Cancer?
Some of our patients, especially those who have a family history of colon cancer or other cancers, are very nervous about their risk of developing cancer. And they are often justified in that fear as close family members who have had colon cancer, in turn, increase your risk of colon cancer as well. However, we have studied decades of colon cancer research and the result is solid guidelines on how to screen for the disease. For those with average risk, a colonoscopy every ten years, starting at the age of 45 is recommended. For those with above average risk, this interval may be much shorter and depends on the judgment of Dr. Crean or your primary care physician.
Others may have already had polyps removed during one of their prior colonoscopies and find that the polyps recur over and over again. This is usually the sign of a genetic predisposition for colon polyps and ultimately colon cancer. If the recurrence of polyps continues, there may be some benefit to having a genetic test.
Genetic Testing – What Is It Good For?
Ultimately, genetic testing helps your doctor understand your risk for colon cancer. If close family members have had colon cancer, your risk may be elevated, but a genetic test may give a much clearer picture of whether you share these traits. This is not to say that a favorable genetic profile means you cannot get colon cancer; this only means that your risk of colon cancer is somewhat lower than other family members. Similarly, a genetic predisposition for colon cancer doesn’t guarantee you will get it. It simply means we have to screen you more closely.
Is There Any Downside to Genetic Testing?
There’s not much in the way of risk when it comes to testing for colon cancer. In fact, genetic testing has become much less expensive than in years past and many insurance companies are covering these tests.
However, the major drawback of genetic testing revolves around how you react if you receive the less-than-great news that you are at high risk of colon cancer. For some, who catastrophize, they may live in fear of eventually getting colon cancer. However, it is important to remember that the overall risk of colon cancer is still quite low. We just have a better idea of your specific risk and can tailor a screening regimen more appropriately
The Bottom Line
Genetic testing or not, it is important that you speak to your doctor about your risk of colon cancer. Doing so can truly be a lifesaver as a proper screening regimen is more likely to catch pre-cancerous or cancerous growth sooner and does allowing for more effective treatment options. Of course, you can always contact our office to learn more about your risk of colon cancer and what you can do to minimize it.