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Need advice - what's is son's risk?

Posts: 134
Joined: Feb 2004

My ex-husband was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. From what people are saying I suspect it's stage III (one positive lumph node and 80% obstruction when surgery was done). No colostomy required - had resection and will be having chemo (weekly or every other week) for 4-6 months. With "dynamics" I'm basing this on info from my son and other family, ex won't talk to me. What's a bummer is I was diagnosed with Stage IIIA breast cancer last May. I'm 49, ex is 50.

I'm scared for our 22 year old son. Any advice or information you can give me would be greatly appreciated. I know the risks, survival rates, etc for breast cancer but not alot about colon cancer.

kerry's picture
Posts: 1317
Joined: Jan 2003

Hi Future, Welcome to the "semi-colons". You've come to the right place to find advice, comfort and wonderful people who will help give you answers and support through their own experiences in many situations dealing with cancer. My first thought, as a mother, is to talk to your son's doctor and convince him to recommend a colonoscopy early. We have many people here who are very young with colon cancer. This disease can be prevented if detected early!! You may have to fight doctors (what a shame) and insurance companies to have this testing, but I believe it can be done. I am in the process of working (arguing) with my daughters' insurance companies to get them tested now to provide a baseline for future colonoscopies. They are 23 and 25! You have many "semi-colons" here who will tell you to pursue every avenue you have to have your child tested early. March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month and I think it is the best time to get on our band wagon!! I wish you the best of luck with your own illness and pursuing your son's tests. Maybe your ex-husband will soon realize life if too short (even when healthy) to behave poorly.

God bless you. Keep us posted.


bryancarson's picture
Posts: 47
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi. I was 29 when I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. My oncologist told me that when I have children, their first scope needs to be 10 years prior to my diagnosis. So, that would make them 19. Other than that, talk to him about diet choices, etc. Colon Cancer is very hereditary and he needs to be watched - so do his children. This is a super preventable disease, so with watching for symptoms and regular colonoscopies, he will be fine.

cmcl's picture
Posts: 79
Joined: Jan 2004

I was diagnosed at 39. I don't have any children to pass this disease on to , but my sister has 2 daughters. A family friend who is a doctor told my sister that her girls should also have a scope 10 years prior to my diagnoses. I'm gald to hear that some doctors are on the same wave length. I wouldn't hesitate in encouraging your son to talk to his doctor about getting checked out.
Good luck,

grandma047's picture
Posts: 381
Joined: Feb 2004

Hello, I have recurrent colon cancer, was stage II in July, don't know what stage this time. My mom had breast cancer 8 yrs ago and is doing fine. My doctors have recommended my children have colonocopies at age 30. My children are now almost 24 and almost 28, so my 28 yr old daughter doesn't have much longer to go. They have agreed to have them. Bad part is, my daughter has no insurance at the present time and my son works for WalMart and doesn't have great insurance. It's a shame that we have to fight with insurance for our very lifes. Good luck to you and your family.
Judy H.

Sheepy's picture
Posts: 48
Joined: Nov 2003

Hi, and welcome!
I don't think anyone is likely to say what a relative's individual risk is, but as others have said there are some standard guidelines - for example, a first-degree relative should be checked out from ten years earlier than the age at which the cancer was diagnosed (because colorectal cancer can be very slow growing, so it might have been present for several years).

However, if you can, find out a bit more about your ex's family, because HNPCC (Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer) could be a possibility - don't just look for colon cancers, if his family shows other cancers particularly bladder, kidney, gall bladder, urinary tract and stomach, they can all be related.

Do you know where in the colon your ex had his tumour - if it's on the right (appendix) side, that also points to HNPCC.

If HNPCC isn't found, your son could expect to be checked from about age 40 - but if he has ANY suspicion of a problem earlier, he MUST nag his doctor for a colonoscopy.

If there is evidence of an HNPCC pattern, ideally your ex should be DNA-tested - but this might be difficult. The reason for confirming HNPCC, is that screening should start from young adulthood and should be done more frequently as polyps turn cancerous more quickly in this form.

Colon cancer is 90%+ curable if found at stage I - most aren't, but any found in screening should be at stage I or II.

Be aware that there are several different screening approaches available:
FOBT (blood in stools); a useful, cheap test - home kits are available in the UK and probably in the US. This will find any blood in the stools, but often gives false positives.

Barium Enema: a fluid is injected which coats the lining of the bowel, and x-rays taken. This may show up polyps or tumours, but is not ideal - however, it's cheap and quick.

Sigmoidoscopy: a flexible probe is inserted into the rectum and descending colon - this allows the final part of the colon, where about 75% of tumours occur, to be examined directly. However, this is only a partial test and absence of a tumour in this test does not necessarily mean the patient is clear elsewhere in the colon. Useful if the patient has seen blood on the stools, as that is likely to have come from that end of the colon.

Finally, colonoscopy: this is the gold standard, giving a very high accuracy rate, it examines the whole colon, and polyps can be removed at the same time. The problem with this is it's expensive (highly-trained doctors are needed to avoid injury) and sedation is needed.

Given the curability of early-stage colorectal cancer, your son should try whatever means he can to get the best checks he can. Unfortunately, insurance companies play a numbers game, and will probably not pay for tests until he's 40 (unless HNPCC can be shown - don't know what they'd do then).

Anonymous user (not verified)

Hello and welcome to our group of wonderful, compassionate, and very funny people. My husband was diagnosed stage III August 2003 and for the moment is doing quite well. He was diagnosed at age 50. His father died of colon cancer at age 57 and my husband's two tumors were exactly in the same location as his father's....cecum colon (right) by the iliocecal value. Our son is 27 and will have his first colonoscopy next month and believe me, it took work getting his primary care physician to write up the referral. This doctor also treated my husband and had been giving him sigs (partial colon exams...which we didn't know were only partial) since age 43 due to the colon cancer history. Knowing that, he was still reluctant to give Michael (son) the referral because he's "too young."

You are never, ever too young. I personally think that you can't start soon enough getting these exams. Done routinely and with proper diet and exercise, your son as well as mine will be just fine as well as countless others who have a better chance of beating or being spared this awful, awful disease.


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