April 8, 2013 9:19 am

Dr. Kris Gast ~ Ask the Pros

Posted in: Ask the Pros

Radiation Oncologist at Fort Smith Radiation OncologyQ: Is colon cancer passed on in families? If my mom had colon cancer, am I more likely to develop this cancer?

A: Colon cancer covers the entire large bowel from the end of the small bowel to the rectum.  When combined with rectal cancer, it is often referred to as colorectal cancer.  Yes, risk for colon cancer may increase based on family history of colon cancer by a first degree relative, such as mom, dad, brother, sisters.  Additionally, if several family members are affected, or if they were diagnosed with colon cancer at an early age, risk increases.  If at risk because of family occurrence, what actions should be taken? Most colon cancers develop from polyps slowly over several years. In fact, it can take over ten years for a polyp to turn into a cancer.  Colonoscopy is one screening tool that does decreases the risk of getting colon cancer by 90% since during this procedure polyps are removed, thus, eliminating the possibility of their developing into cancer. Also, some studies have shown that aspirin or ibuprofen use can decrease risk as well.  The best action to take is to talk to your medical doctor about when you should start the screening process based on your family history.

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