Knowing Your Risk for Cancer Could Save Your Life: Just Ask Meg
“That is a haunting memory for me,” says Meg Meranus when remembering her father battling colon cancer when she was a young girl. It was that memory that drove her to begin regular colonoscopies and ultimately discover her first polyp at the age of 27.
“I kept getting checked, because I didn’t want to end up having a terrible disease, when I was in my thirties,” she says.
After multiple tests, about half of them revealing polyps that would be removed; she underwent genetic testing and was diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome, an inherited condition that increases your risk for developing colon cancer and other cancers, like uterine, ovarian and stomach. It is the most common of inherited syndromes that increase the risk of colon cancer, affecting one out of 370 people in the U.S.
Genetic red flags for being at risk for Lynch Syndrome or inherited colon cancer include:
- Early onset of colon cancer before the age of 50
- Multiple relatives with the same type of cancer or a pattern of cancer that looks like it is being passed down
- More than one cancer in a person
“It all made sense,” Meg says. “That information was very helpful because I understood why I kept getting all these polyps, which could grow into cancer.”
One test ultimately revealed a polyp that had grown into cancer, but it was caught early. Meg went through treatment through the TriHealth Cancer Institute where she received great care from multiple physicians including her oncologist David Draper MD and a team of specialists from other disciplines.
Meg knows how critical it was to identify her risk level. This allowed her to catch her cancer early. She continues to receive genetic counseling updates from Genetic Counselor Karen Huelsman, LCG, MS, at the TriHealth Cancer Institute.
“Working with a genetic counselor, a patient can determine if they are at high risk for cancer or not,” Huelsman says. “If they are, a management plan can be determined with a team of specialists.”
According to Huelsman, that management plan may include regular colonoscopies much younger and more frequently than what is generally recommended for the population.
“I know people are very fearful of colonoscopies and think it’s terrible and, it’s really not,” Meg says. “The preps are so much better than they used to be, you really don’t feel a thing. You wake up and you get your results and most of the time they are fantastic. You go on with your day and you feel great because you have another year of knowing that you are OK.”
Because of the inherited nature of Lynch Syndrome, Meg encouraged her children and her siblings to be tested. Her brother and daughter were diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome and now receive regular preventative screenings and genetic counseling.
“I really encourage anyone who looks around their family and sees a high incidence of cancer, especially colon cancer, to take advantage of TriHealth’s genetic counseling,” Meg says. “Karen does a great job and it’s very comforting. Knowledge is power. It’s the best thing you can do for you and your family. “
TriHealth offers an online screening tool to help you determine if you are at higher risk for inherited cancer and if you might be a candidate for genetic counseling.