Talk to your family and collect your family history

Collecting your family history isn’t a daunting task. It’s a simple as having a conversation.

Download questions to ask.
  • Ask about any history of gastrointestinal diseases and colon or other cancers in your brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and your cousins. Include at least three generations (yourself, your parents and grandparents).
  • Collect information about who had cancer, what type of cancer it was, and how old they were when it was diagnosed. Ask, if anyone had colon polyps, and if so, how old were they when they were found? It is also worth asking if someone had many polyps, or just a few.
  • Take special note of cancers that are seen more often with inherited colon cancers, including endometrial /uterine, ovarian, pancreatic, and urinary tract cancers (linked to Lynch Syndrome, the most common  genetic condition linked to inherited colon cancer).
  • If a family member’s medical history isn’t known, you may learn more by talking with extended family, looking at death certificates, or reviewing medical records.
  • If you are unable to complete a full family history, a genetic counselor can help with the research and fill in some gaps.

Does one family member’s cancer diagnosis mean you need to worry about having a genetic link to colon cancer?

No! But it may mean you should look at your family a little more.  One relative diagnosed with colon cancer over age 60 is an unlikely link to inherited risk. A colon cancer under the age of 50, however, may indicate a higher chance of a genetic link. A colon cancer diagnosis at a younger-than usual age (under 50), an individual diagnosed with more than one cancer, or someone with many colon polyps, may indicate it is time to collect your family history and talk with a genetic counselor about your risk.

Overview Video #2: Talk to a professional  Video #3: Get the right test. Video #4: Next Steps Video #5: Change Your Story

mngcaThis information is presented through a partnership of the Colon Cancer Coalition and the Minnesota Genetic Counselors Association (MNGCA). 
Information on these pages is provided for educational purposes only. Consult your own physician before making any medical decisions.