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Cancer Genetics

What is My Risk for Developing Rectal Cancer

10/04/2011

Question:

My mother was diagnosed with rectal cancer in Jan of 2011, stage 4. She has done Zyloda and now they say it`s not working. She doesn`t want to do IV therapy. I know with it she will not survive. What are the chances that her family could develop thsi cancer. I have already been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and I`ve been diagnosed with polyps. Also my son had polyps removed when he was 5 years old.

Answer:

We have learned that first degree relatives of people with cancer (sons, daughters, brothers and sisters) typically have an increased risk for cancer as well. Since your mother had colon cancer, you and your siblings would have about 10-15% chance to develop colorectal cancer; this is about 2-3 times higher than the risk for a personal without a family history of colorectal cancer (~5-6%). However, you state that you have had polyps and your son had polyps when he was 5. This may change the risks substantially. There is a hereditary form of colon cancer susceptibility called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). People with forms of FAP typically will develop at least 10 and sometimes hundreds to thousands of colon polyps starting in their early years, and their chance to develop colon cancer can be up to nearly 100%. There is genetic testing to look for changes in genes that can cause FAP and other forms of polyposis. You should talk with your physician to discuss the family history, discuss colon cancer screening and help you locate a medical geneticist or genetic counselor to talk about the cancers in your family. You can also find a genetic counselor near where you live by going to the website listed below.  You can also find information about hereditary colon cancer by visiting the website of the National Cancer Institute.

Related Resources:

Find a Genetic Counselor - National Society of Genetic Counselors

For more information:

Go to the Cancer Genetics health topic, where you can:

Response by:

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