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Home for the Holidays: Talk to Your Relatives about Colon Cancer History

Family conversations around the holiday dinner table are some of the most cherished and memorable events of the season. They are times to share stories, strengthen bonds, recount our history and make plans for the future. As we gather together to celebrate time-honored traditions and connect with those we love most, consider starting a conversation that could have a meaningful impact on everyone present – discuss your family’s health history.

A family history of colon cancer is one risk factor that makes you eligible for early screening. Standard guidelines recommend that colon screening begin at age 50 for average risk individuals, but if you have family members that have previously been diagnosed with polyps or colon cancer, you should start screening earlier. While most cases of colon cancer occur independently, approximately 5 to 10 percent of cases are hereditary.

Holiday gatherings provide the perfect opportunity to talk to your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, parents and siblings about conditions that run in your family and any history of cancer. Not only will this help you gain a better picture of your health, but it could spark meaningful conversation topics, such as the importance of routine screenings and check-ups. Some questions you may want to ask include:


  • Do you know of any health conditions that run in the family?
  • Have any family members been diagnosed with colon polyps or colon cancer?
  • At what age was this family member diagnosed?
  • Was genetic testing performed? What were the results of those tests?
  • Are you current on your check-ups and colon cancer screenings?
  • What can I do to help you stay current with routine screenings and doctor visits?

Holidays spent with family are some of the most cherished times of the year. Do your part to ensure that your loved ones are around to enjoy many more joyful seasons by starting a family health history discussion this year. It’s a conversation that will bring you even closer to those you value most, and it will give you an opportunity to participate in maintaining their good health.

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