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New test targets Lynch syndrome, a risk factor for colon, endometrial cancers

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Sarasota Memorial has added an important test to help people with colon or endometrial cancer determine their risk for Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition in which individuals and their family members are at greater risk for developing secondary cancers often at a young age.

In June, the hospital began testing tumor tissue samples from patients undergoing resections for colon cancer and hysterectomies for endometrial cancer. The Immunohistochemistry (IHC) test helps determine if individuals may have Lynch syndrome, also called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), helping doctors make important decisions on the timing and delivery of care for patients with the hereditary cancer syndrome.

In the screening program’s first month, tissue samples from several patients revealed certain protein abnormalities indicating a strong probability for Lynch syndrome. The screening results are sent to each patient’s doctor for follow-up consultations.

“The screening test doesn’t diagnose an individual with Lynch syndrome, however, it can indicate a very strong probability that Lynch syndrome runs in their family,” said Sarasota Memorial’s Genetic Education Program Coordinator Cristi Radford, the only certified genetic counselor specializing in oncology between Tampa and Naples. “It’s important for those patients to talk to their doctor about genetic counseling. Routine surveillance and screenings can save not only their life, but also the lives of their family members.”

While most people have about a six percent chance of developing colon cancer at some point in their lives, people with Lynch syndrome have about an 80 percent chance. Women with Lynch syndrome also have about a 10 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer and a 60 percent chance of developing uterine cancer.

If you have a gene mutation that causes Lynch syndrome, on average at least another three family members will have it, Radford said. People who have Lynch syndrome have a high chance of developing cancer more than once in their lifetime, may have cancer at a younger age (under 50), and/or have a family history of certain cancers (see types below).

You or a relative could be at risk for Lynch syndrome if:

  • You or your relative was diagnosed with colorectal or uterine cancer before age 50.
  • You or your relative has had two or more Lynch syndrome cancers (colon, uterine, ovary, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, ureter, kidney or brain cancers).
  • You’ve had an abnormal IHC screening test.

Genetic Counseling
If you have been diagnosed with colon or endometrial cancer, or if you’re concerned about your family’s risk for Lynch syndrome or other hereditary cancer, call Sarasota Memorial’s Genetic Education Program: 917-2005

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