When should preventive colon checkups begin for someone with a family history of cancer?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 07, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

They detected my dad's colon cancer at age 45 in the year 2002 at stage 4. He passed away at age of 49 in the year 2006. When should I begin to get my colon checked?

Expert Answers

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker is author and creator of the The Compassionate Caregiver's Series, which includes "The Compassionate Caregiver's Guide to Caring for Someone with Cancer," "The Journey of Grief," "Handbook on Hospice and Palliative Care," and other titles on cancer diagnosis and end of life. She speaks regularly at cancer research and support functions, including PANCAN and Cancer Survivor's Network. She is a former member of the Executive Committee of the CSN at St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta and the Georgia Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Generally, doctors recommend that you start colon checkups ten years prior to the diagnosis age of the family member; in your case, age 35. However, if you have other incidence of cancer or other family members that have been diagnosed, you may want to be checked earlier. Remember, the earlier any malady is found, the better chance there is of fighting it.

Community Answers

Teegee answered...

I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 73, so while "ten years prior to the age of diagnosis of the family member" may be appropriate for someone with an earlier incidence of family history, that would mean my sons would be waiting until mid-sixties to begin screening, which is beyond even the suggested age of 50 for someone with no history.

My surgeon and my oncologist both suggested that age 40 would be the optimum to begin screening for my children.

I suppose the definitive answer would have to come from one's phsician.

Poohtie answered...

My own mom passed away from Stage 4 Colon Cancer that spread from her vaginal wall from vulvar cancer. She had 16 weeks of radiation, was told that the cancer in that area of her body was cured. Then, in 2009, after traveling back to our home state of Arizona from a 10 year stay in Iowa, my mom was given her diagnosis and she NEVER was given a colonoscopy while in Iowa. I am and have had 2 colonoscopies since October 2010, with a third to be done next month. My gastroenterologist is watching me like a hawk, I wished that a doctor would've been more diligent with my mom, she might've been here today.

Ravenwolf6201 answered...

I myself have been told that I should go in for a colonoscopy after my 30th birthday. My family has 2 diagnoses of colon cancer. My father and his grandfather. I will be going faithly just as I have for my PAPs. It is so hard seeing one of the strongest people in my life need so much help and care. I can only imagine how much harder it is being that person.