Lynch syndrome: Regular bowel cancer checks for those at highest risk

Thousands of people in England with a genetic condition that raises their risk of bowel cancer by up to 80% will be given regular cancer checks. The move will save lives by detecting cancers early in people with Lynch syndrome, the NHS says.

The condition is thought to affect 175,000 people in England, but few are aware they have it. A simple blood test can identify it – those affected can have a colonoscopy every two years from a young age.

The procedure will be offered at local bowel cancer screening centres, close to people’s homes, NHS England said.What is Lynch syndrome? Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that increases the risk of certain cancers, including bowel, ovarian, and pancreatic.

It does not directly cause cancer, but genetic mutations which run in families can make the disease more likely at a younger age.  One in 400 people in England is thought to have it, but only 5% are aware they do
It is thought to raise the lifetime risk of bowel cancer by up to about 80%.   About 1,100 bowel cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome each year in England.   Genetic testing for Lynch syndrome is now available to all those diagnosed with bowel and endometrial cancer, and relatives and families can also be tested.

University lecturer Nicola Theis, from Cheltenham, found out she had Lynch syndrome following her dad’s diagnosis with advanced bowel cancer in 2019.

He was only given months to live, which she says was “devastating for our family”.

But he started receiving immunotherapy treatment which began to shrink his tumour.

“Miraculously, he was cancer-free in less than a year and his scans have been clear since. I’m so happy he’s still with us,” Nicola says.

She was then tested and diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, and is now being screened regularly.

“Being part of the screening programme gives me the confidence that any cancers that may develop can be caught earlier, when they’re more treatable.”

Hard to detect
Bowel cancer is now the third most common cancer in the country and cases are rising year on year, according to the clinical director for cancer at NHS England.

“It also tends to be one of the harder cancers to detect at an early stage because signs and symptoms usually appear later,” Prof Peter Johnson said.

He said people should come forward for regular screening when invited, and also look out for any potential symptoms.

They include:

a change in bowel habits
blood in the poo
abdominal pain
Bowel cancer: How to check your poo

“If you do notice any of these changes, please do come forward for checks at your GP surgery – getting checked saves lives,” Prof Johnson added.

Source: BBC

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