Screening for colorectal cancer is important because it can prevent colorectal cancer and find it early. Most colorectal cancers start as precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths in the colon or rectum, that can be removed during a colonoscopy before they develop into cancer. (Not all polyps turn into cancer.) Most colorectal cancers grow slowly and do not produce symptoms right away, so screening is important to find these tumors early, when treatments are more likely to work.
Several medical options are available for managing cancer risks in people who have Lynch syndrome. These options all have risks and benefits, and should be discussed with a doctor before making any medical decisions.
Colonoscopies every 1-2 years starting between the ages of 20-25 (or 2-5 years before the earliest colorectal cancer in the family) are the most effective way to prevent colorectal cancer.
Other available options may reduce the chance of developing cancer or improve the likelihood of detecting it earlier, but the effectiveness of these options is less certain and should be discussed with a doctor:
- Daily aspirin use to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer
- Transvaginal ultrasound and endometrial biopsy every 1–2 years, beginning at age 30–35 years, to detect endometrial cancer
- CA-125 blood tests every year to detect ovarian cancer
- Hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy to prevent gynecologic cancers
- Upper endoscopies every 3-5 years starting between the ages of 30-35 to detect stomach and small bowel cancer
- Urinalysis every year starting between the ages of 30-35 to detect bladder cancer
- Physical and neurological exams starting between the ages of 25-30 every year to check for cancer in the central nervous system
If you are a woman with Lynch syndrome, you are more likely to get uterine (endometrial) and ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms of gynecologic cancers including
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially if you are past menopause,
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic area,
- Abdominal or back pain,
- Feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating, or
- A change in your bathroom habits, such as more frequent or urgent need to urinate or constipation.
To learn more about symptoms of gynecologic cancers and hear stories from women whose lives have been affected by gynecologic cancers, visit CDC’s Inside Knowledge campaign website.