Talking about cancer is never easy. Especially if you come from a family who keeps their medical struggles private. But it’s so important to have conversations with relatives about the issues they face. You can learn a lot about the risks you might face simply by knowing what your genes are predisposed to.
“First-degree relatives – parents, siblings and children – of patients with colorectal cancer or polyps have a two- to three-fold increased risk of developing polyps and colon or rectal cancer,” says Craig Reickert, M.D., in Breaking taboo: Making colon cancer awareness a family affair.
It’s especially important to educate yourself about your family history, because oftentimes, colon cancer comes with no symptoms.
“We’re finding colorectal cancer in younger people under 40,” says Dr. Anezi Bakken, M.D. M.S. at Troy Gastroenterology. “And there are usually no symptoms,” Dr. Bakken adds.
By far the best way to screen for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. But, if you’re still facing resistance from your family about discussing their personal health, Dr. Reickert suggests putting it this way:
You change the oil in your car so you don’t have to replace the entire motor. Colonoscopy is just like that oil change; it’s preventative maintenance to extend your life and avoid invasive treatments down the line, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The bottom line is that screening is the only way you can get out ahead of colon cancer to have a chance of getting it under control. Even though it’s not curable, it’s definitely controllable if found early enough and treated properly.
And, after talking to your family, it’s even more important to get screened – and screened early – if they’ve had any issues with colon cancer, Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
Dr. M. Emin Donat, M.D. F.R.C.P.C. at Troy Gastroenterology, puts it best: “A colonoscopy is easy, painless and can save your life.”