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Cancer Genetics

Diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer



My brother has just been diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 40. We expect to find out shortly what stage is at, all we know so far is that it is not stage 1 and it is not stage 4. I am 36 - should I be looking at getting a colonoscopy or similar test? From what I read, in an ideal world I should be screened 10 years prior to the age at which my brother`s cancer was diagnosed. Obviously that timeframe has passed and I am concerned that there may already be some development.


As you mentioned, the typical recommendation is that family members (children, siblings) should have their first colonoscopies about 5-10 years earlier than the earliest colon cancer diagnosis in the family. This would mean that your brother's children should have colonoscopies at 30-35.  There is no magic in this number, other than that the goal is to try to identify any other cancers hopefully at the earliest stages, or in the case of colon cancer before any colon polyps may have progressed to become invasive cancers.  Since you just found about about your brother's colon cancer, you and your siblings (and probably your parents as well) should schedule colonoscopies at this time.

Your brother should consider a genetics evaluation for possible hereditary colon cancer as well.  While most colon cancers are not part of hereditary colon cancer syndromes, early onset cancers arouse suspicion for hereditary colon cancer susceptibility.  A genetic evaluation may help identify other family members who are at substantially elevated risk for colon cancer.  Your brother can locate a genetics center by visiting the website for the National Society of Genetic Counselors listed below. 

Related Resources:

Society of Genetic Counselors Resource Center

For more information:

Go to the Cancer Genetics health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University