by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Lynch syndrome, also known as Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), is a genetic condition that dramatically increases your risk for developing some form of colorectal cancer as well as several other cancers. Lynch syndrome is caused by a mutation in one of the genes in the DNA mismatch repair system. This system is resposible for correcting errors in our DNA. The system detects and replaces bases that have been incorrectly paired in our DNA. There are several inherited syndromes that canincrease your chances of developing cancer but Lynch syndrome is the most common. Those born with Lynch syndrome are at highest risk for developing colorectal cancer. It is estimated that the risk is approximately 80% that a person born with Lynch syndrome will develop colorectal cancer. Women born with Lynch syndrome have a 20-60% lifetime risk of developing
endometrial cancer as well as increased risk of developing ovarian
cancer before the age of 40yrs.
There are no “symptoms” as in other diseases, the symptom of Lynch syndrome is basically the development of cancer. However, before you develop the symptoms of cancer there are things you can look at and do to determine if you moght have Lynch syndrome. There have been numerous advances in medical science including the availability of genetic testing. However, it can be very expensive and time consuming. Because of the cost researchers have designed a technique known as the Amsterdam Criteria to identify potential HNPCC carriers.
If a person meets the Amsterdam Criteria then they are reccomended for genetic testing in addition to verify the presence of HNPCC. The Amsterdam Criteria consists of :
1. Three or more family members with a confirmed diagnosis of colorectal cancer, one of whom is a parent, child or sibling of the other two.
2. Two successive generations affected.
3. One or more colon cancers diagnosed before the age of 50yrs.
4. Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) has been ruled out.
The most common treatment for Lynch syndrome is surgery. If you have not developed cancer when diagnosed with Lynch syndrome your Dr will recommend a screening schedule for cancer. For men and women that would involve endoscopic screenings for colon cancer and other cancers of the gastrointestinal system. Usually the Dr will recommend these screenings begin in the 20’s and are then done annually. Women that have Lynch syndrome will also need to be screened for ovarian and endometerial cancers starting in their 30’s. If you have a family history of cancers of t he urinary system or skin cancer your Dr may recommend that you be screened for them as well. If there is a family history of other cancers those screenings may also be recommended.
Some people that have been diagnosed with Lynch syndrome opt to have surgery before cancer develops. There is no evidence to show that having your colon removed is more effective than frequent screenings. It is more of apersonal choice. However, on the other hand surgery to remove your ovaries and uterus does eliminate the possibility of developing ovarian or endometrial cancer in the future. Knowing that you may be at risk can be helpful, research and learn all you can about Lynch syndrome. There are support groups available to help as well, your Dr. can provide you with information on local groups.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.