Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer

Timothy C. Hoops, MD
Last Modified: February 3, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I was diagnosed with uterine & cervical cancer in 1997, at age 34. I was told that I needed a colonoscopy because this cancer is sometimes followed by colon cancer. Is this true? How often should I be screened? Also, my father (deceased at age 44) brother, sister and nephew have had colon cancer.  


Answer

Timothy C. Hoops, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Gastroenterology Division at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Gastroenterology at Penn Medicine at Radnor, responds:

With that family history and your history of endometrial cancer, you may have an inherited cancer syndrome called Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer, or HNPCC. Uterine cancer is one of the cancers that can occur in HNPCC. You are at high risk for colon cancer and should have colonoscopies starting now and every 1 to 2 years. I can't stress how important this is. It may save your life. For those with uterine cancer without a family history of colon cancer, it isn't clear whether there is an increased risk for colon cancer. There isn't enough data to show a strong link. I would reiterate that your case is quite different. You must get a colonoscopy.

OncoLink has joined forces with the National Colorectal Research Alliance to help their scientists study the risk factors associated with colorectal cancer and identify potential preventive and treatment therapies. You and your family may be interested in taking our survey. This confidential survey was developed by cancer experts as an interactive way to help our leading scientists study families with a history of colorectal cancer. OncoLink/National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance prevention database