Sentara Cancer Network targets Lynch Syndrome to Prevent Colon Cancers

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Sentara Cancer Network tests all patients diagnosed with colon cancer for Lynch Syndrome, a heredity condition that affects 1 in 400 people. Certified genetic counselors can assist patients with preventative strategies.

Certified Genetic Counselor

Jessa Blount, MS, CGC

“Families with difficult dynamics sometimes need help navigating their feelings after a diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome and a genetic counselor can help with that process.”

Laura Seeley was not yet 40 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. The disease runs in her family, having claimed her mother, two uncles and her maternal grandparents. Seeley’s cancer was discovered early through a screening colonoscopy and surgery removed it without radiation or chemotherapy. Seeley’s gastroenterologist read her family history and asked if she had been screened for Lynch Syndrome.

“I’m a nurse and I had never heard of Lynch Syndrome,” said Seeley. A blood test at the Sentara Cancer Network partner Virginia Oncology Associates revealed the hereditary link to the colon cancers in her family.

“It was kind of scary,” Seeley recalls. “I didn’t know the implications.”

The implications of Lynch Syndrome include up to an 80% risk of developing colon cancer for both men and women. Lynch Syndrome also raises women’s risk of developing uterine, ovarian and breast cancers. While most people schedule their first colonoscopy screening at age 50, patients with Lynch syndrome often start annual screenings at age 25 to remove colon polyps and prevent them from becoming colon cancers.

“Patients diagnosed with Lynch will often feel guilty or depressed about what it means for their children,” said Jessa Blount, certified genetic counselor with the Sentara Cancer Network. “I try to assure them that knowledge is power and they can take preventive steps through frequent screenings and family education.”

Women with Lynch Syndrome sometimes choose a preventive hysterectomy to avoid uterine or ovarian cancers, either right away or as soon as they finish having children.

“We work closely with other family members if they let us,” Blount says. “Families with difficult dynamics sometimes need help navigating their feelings after a diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome and a genetic counselor can help with that process.”

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Dale Gauding
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