Family history is a vital component of medical examination. Doctors across all medical fields routinely ask for family history information during consultations. It is defined as a record of conditions and diseases that run through a person’s family line and is used to gauge a patients’ genetic risk factor for developing certain diseases, like colon cancer.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. For this reason, colon cancer screening has become a general practice for individuals aged 45 and up. For individuals who have family members diagnosed in the past, it is recommended that they be screened early via colonoscopy to catch or prevent it before cancer fully develops.
According to the American Cancer Society, people who have siblings or parents who had colon cancer should be screened at least 10 years before the age of diagnosis for the youngest relative.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Samir Gupta, 1 in 4 cancer patients had a history of colon cancer in their families. For healthy patients, that ratio is 1 in 10. Despite these numbers, only 2% of diagnosed patients had colonoscopy screenings as instructed. The study found that most patients were unaware of their own history or had difficulty conveying this information to their doctors.
It is important to conduct regular screenings after the age of 45, and even more so for individuals with a family history of this disease. These patients are advised to consult with a gastroenterologist and request an early screening— perhaps at age 40 or sooner— for preventative reasons. It’s better to catch it early on. Everyone has a different story to tell; be sure to find out yours.
Author Leo Treyzon MD