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Little Known Disorder Increases Likelihood Of Life Threatening Cancers

Dr. Har Chi Lau of Hudson Valley Surgical Group.
Dr. Har Chi Lau of Hudson Valley Surgical Group. Photo Credit: Contributed

A cancer diagnosis often begins a frightening and uncertain time for many people. In some cases however, developing certain cancers can serve as a warning sign of larger biological problems that may open the door to additional cancers.

Also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer - or HNPCC - Lynch Syndrome is a condition in which genetic defects in a patient result in an increased likelihood of them developing more than one type cancer. The disorder often manifests itself during a colorectal cancer discovery, and signifies a risk of also developing a variety of other cancers, including stomach, breast and liver. As Lynch is a genetic mutation, it is highly transferrable from generation to generation and affected parents have a 50/50 chance of passing it to their kids.

According to Dr. Har Chi Lau of Hudson Valley Surgical Group who regularly performs abdominal surgeries, colon cancer is usually found by GI doctors during routine colonoscopies. Once colon cancer is identified and treated, he recommends patients immediately undergo testing for Lynch Syndrome.

"You should see if any family member has a history of Lynch-related types of cancers, because if you have Lynch, you’re almost 80 to 90 percent guaranteed to have colorectal cancer," he said.

Fortunately, Lynch Syndrome is not a common occurrence — the general population stands a 1 in 300 chance of development — but instances are on the rise due to increased awareness and testing by doctors.

"Most people don’t know they have Lynch until they have a cancer already," said Lau. "There are blood tests you can do, and if you have a parent with a certain type of cancer, you as a child should speak to a generic counselor."

In many cases, those with Lynch Syndrome simply opt to have their colon removed as a preventative measure. "In term of surgical complexity, the [colon] removal is a bit on the higher end, but it's not a high risk or dangerous procedure," said Lau.  "[That's why] having the right surgeon is key."

To learn more about Lynch Syndrome and the services offered by Hudson Valley Surgical Group, click here.