Finding Cancer That Runs in Families

An estimated 3 to 5 percent of colon cancer is associated with specific genetic mutations that can be passed along in families, but some families that are at higher risk may not know. The Tulane Cancer Center is helping families understand their risks.

A new clinic at Tulane Cancer Center helps families determine if they are at higher risk for colon cancer. (Photo by Sally Asher)

“It is critical that patients suspected of having these genetic colon cancer syndromes be identified and undergo genetic testing so that they can receive proper multidisciplinary care, as their lifetime risk of developing colon cancer can approach 100 percent,” says Dr. Jordan Karlitz, assistant professor of clinical medicine in gastroenterology.

Members of colon cancer families that harbor specific mutations develop colonic malignancies at younger ages and are at risk for other malignancies, including cancer of the uterus, stomach, small bowel, ovary, kidneys and brain.

“Many who have these mutations may not know that they need to begin colonoscopies much earlier, often decades earlier, than the average-risk patient,” Karlitz says.

To help provide the specialized care required by these families, Karlitz has opened a new Familial Colon Cancer Clinic at Tulane. There are relatively few such specialized centers in the U.S. and none in Louisiana, according to Karlitz. 

Patients may meet with genetic counselors at the Hayward Genetic Center at Tulane for testing. “After evaluation, we will work with our colleagues across the specialties — surgeons, oncologists, gynecologists, etc. — to coordinate their care. In addition, we will invite at-risk family members to Tulane for testing as well,” Karlitz says." 

In recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Tulane Cancer Center presents a free workshop, “Conversations About Colorectal Cancer,” on Thursday (March 24) from noon until 4 p.m. Since lunch will be provided, a reservation is necessary by calling 504-988-6851. To make an appointment with the Familial Colon Cancer Clinic, call Chalai Banks at 504-988-6300.











Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000