There are a lot of things you can inherit through your family’s genetic traits. You may have the same nose as your mother, the same eye color as your father, have similar hair, or be tall like the rest of your relatives. These are all clear even to the untrained eye, but there are also a lot of traits your family can hand down to you that might not be quite as desirable. A propensity for cancer or certain other diseases are also genetic, including a disease known as Lynch syndrome that can put you at a higher risk for developing a number of cancers at an early age.
What Is Lynch Syndrome?
Lynch syndrome isn’t actually a form of cancer, rather it’s a condition that increases your risk of certain forms of cancer, including colon, endometrial, and ovarian. Lynch syndrome is somewhat unique to inherited traits in the sense that it’s autosomal dominant, meaning that if one parent carries the gene, there’s a 50 percent chance it will be passed on to their offspring. Additionally, there are equal risks that it will be passed on to male or female children, regardless of which parent carries the gene. It is a defect in the DNA, where a mutation occurs and is unable to repair itself. Since it has no ability to repair itself, it can continue to mutate, often leading to additional flawed cells, which can develop into tumors and cancers.
How Do I Know I Have Lynch Syndrome?
There are no clear cut symptoms in someone who has Lynch syndrome, rather it’s usually diagnosed through family history of developing certain types of cancer, notably at an early age. The most commonly related cancers include colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer, small bowel cancer, endometrial cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, bile duct cancer, and sebaceous adenomas on the skin. Although all of these are possible in relation to Lynch syndrome, colorectal cancer is the most common, with 3-5 percent of colon cancer cases being related to Lynch syndrome.
If It Doesn’t Present Obvious Symptoms, How Can I Advocate For Myself?
It can be challenging to diagnose a medical condition that exhibits no obvious symptoms, so the key to understanding if you’re at risk for this genetic mutation lies in understanding your family history and making sure you share pertinent information with both your primary care doctor and your TWC OBGYN, as Lynch syndrome can dramatically increases a woman’s risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer. Even though the syndrome occurs frequently in men as well, these two types of cancer uniquely affect women, meaning there’s an additional opportunity for discovering it early through extra care and attention and potential testing when it is discussed at an annual wellness exams.
There are a number of available tests and screening methods that both men and women should avail themselves to, starting early and continuing with regularity. These screening methods should be employed by general practitioners, OBGYNs, dermatologists, and gastroenterologists. These tests include pelvic ultrasounds, endometrial biopsies, colonoscopies, endoscopies, and total body skin exams.
How Can I Prepare For My Upcoming Wellness Exam?
Whether you’re a new patient at The Woman’s Clinic or have visited us before, you should do some research prior to your next appointment and discuss your findings with us. Look into your family history, making special note of any family members who dealt with cancer at an early age. We can help you determine steps to move forward in regards to testing and future care. By understanding Lynch syndrome and catching it early, our team is at an advantage to help you take care of your health proactively. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment for your next exam.