RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - In March of 2015 actress Angelina Jolie announced she was having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. This, after having her breasts removed to prevent the development of breast cancer. Jolie was diagnosed with the BRCA gene, a hereditary condition that increases the risk of breast cancer by 87%.
Her following surgeries were based on the fact she ran a 50% increased risk of ovarian cancer. Her announcement caused a 64% surge in testing for the BRCA gene.
But there's another inherited cancer syndrome associated with not only ovarian cancer, but colon and uterine cancers as well, that certainly doesn't have the "celebrity status" of BRCA. It is called Lynch Syndrome.
“The estimate right now that 80,000 mistakes occur every time a cell divides. If that is the case, think about all the cells in your body. 30 trillion. And then think about all the mistakes that occur as those 30 trillion cells are produced. Lynch Syndrome is a result of the cells' inability to correct the naturally occurring mistakes,” says cancer genetics specialist Dr. Nathan Slotnick.
Those diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome run an 80% risk of developing colon cancer. A 60% risk of uterine cancer, 12% risk for ovarian cancer, 13% risk for stomach cancer.
“Brain cancer, unusual cancers should be a signal. If you have a family history. Generation after generation,” says Dr. Slotnick.
Both men and women carry the gene, and have a 50% chance of passing it on to their children.
Tests are available to pinpoint the gene.
“To know in advance you can decrease your chance of cancer and certainly decrease the implications of a cancer diagnosis. Early diagnosis saves lives,” says Dr. Slotnick.
What science now knows about Lynch Syndrome is that cancers caused by the genetic disorder can be more effectively treated with treatment specifically geared to the patient.