What You Need To Know About Lynch Syndrome

What is lynch syndrome?

Lynch syndrome is an inherited disorder that increase your risk for many cancer, especially colon cancer.  Because of its strong associated with colon cancer, it is often called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC.

In the US alone, there are about 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer each year, about 5% of which can be attributed to Lynch syndrome. Families which have Lynch syndrome, typically see more colon cancer and other associated cancers within their family than others. Furthermore, cancers usually appear at a younger age than the rest of the population. 

What are the signs and symptoms of lynch syndrome?

People with Lynch syndrome may experience:

  • Colon cancer that occurs at a younger age, especially before age 50
  • A family history of colon cancer that occurs at a young age
  • A family history of endometrial cancer
  • A family history of other related cancers, including ovarian cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, small intestine cancer, liver cancer, sweat gland cancer and others

If you have concerns about your family history of colon or endometrial cancer, bring it up with your doctor. Discuss getting a genetic evaluation of your family history and your cancer risk.  If someone in your family has been diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, then it is prudent to tell your doctor and see a genetic counselor to discuss your risk for this inherited condition.

What kinds of tests are available for Lynch Syndrome? 

Aside from just reviewing family history of colon, ovarian and other cancers, there several tests available to provide proper diagnosis for Lynch Syndrome. These tests include:

·         Tumor Testing: this includes immunohistochemistry testing and microsatellite instability testing

·         Genetic Testing

Is there treatment available for Lynch syndrome?

Treatment for Lynch syndrome mainly focuses on treating the subsequent cancers, like colon cancer that derive from Lynch.  Extra precautions are also taken for those with Lynch as the risk of recurrence is much higher.  For those with colon cancer associated with Lynch syndrome, there is typically removal of extra colon tissue to combat the high recurrence rate.  Alternatively, treatment depends on stage and location of the cancer. This can involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Prevention of Lynch syndrome cancers involves systematic screening for different types of cancers Lynch is associated with.  Screening may depend on family history of cancer, and the specific gene causing your Lynch syndrome.  Identifying a tumor at its earliest stage, increases the likelihood of a cure.