Clinical Genetics Services provide assessments, advice, testing, diagnoses and support through a team of specialist health professionals. This team will include doctors, genetics nurses and counsellors, plus administrative staff. There are Regional Genetics Services all across the UK with clinics in several hospitals in each area. They work with individuals and families who have genetic conditions. They also see people who think that they may have an inherited risk of an illness, such as cancer.
For more information about what genetics services do, see the Clinical Genetics Society website http://www.clingensoc.org/what-is-clinical-genetics/
Usually people need to be referred to their local genetics service by their GP, or by their specialist. This means that someone who has had cancer may be sent by their surgeon or oncologist to see the genetics team. However, if your family is already known to a genetics service in some areas it is possible to contact the genetics team direct.
If you want to contact one, Genetic Alliance UK have links to each regional genetics service via their website https://www.geneticalliance.org.uk/information/services-and-testing/nhs-genetic-services-in-the-uk/
Most genetic services will first ask you to fill out a form which asks for information about all the people in your family who have had serious illness. This means that they can draw your family tree before you are seen. It gives the geneticist or genetic counsellor a ‘head start’ and some idea of the questions you may want answers to.
For some families it is possible to find a genetic alteration which explains why more people in the family have had cancer than you might expect. However for some families no gene alteration is found but the family still appears to be at a higher risk of cancer. In either situation, if regular screening is recommended this will help reduce the chance that people will get cancer.
Cancer that has started in the large bowel is called ‘bowel cancer’. It can also be called colorectal cancer or more specifically cancer of the colon or rectum (back passage).
Cancer is when a group of cells start growing in an uncontrolled way and usually results in a lump or growth. In the bowel it is often possible to see and remove cancer at an early stage as it appears as a polyp in the wall of the bowel.
When the cancer is quite small it might upset the working of the bowel and make the bowel movements more frequent or loose. If the cancer is not diagnosed early then the tumour can grow to a size that blocks the bowel and causes severe constipation.
Anyone can develop bowel cancer but it is more common in people over the age of 60. About one in twenty people get bowel cancer, so it is quite common. If several people on the same side of the family have had bowel cancer, particularly if anyone had it under the age of 50, this indicates a possible genetic risk to the cancer. Some other cancers like womb, stomach, ovarian or kidney cancer happen more often in families with a higher risk of bowel cancer. So if one person has two of these cancers, or there are several relatives with these cancers, that can also be significant.
See Bowel Cancer UK webpage on Family History for more information https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/risk-factors/family-history/
Good clear information about bowel cancer is available through the NHS Choices website and gives advice about symptoms to be aware of http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-colon-rectum-or-bowel/Pages/Symptoms.aspx.
Also the Cancer Research UK website has lots of information with a short video clip to help show what increases the risk of bowel cancer http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/bowel-cancer/about-bowel-cancer.