Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: Genetic Testing for Colon Cancer

Colon cancer affects a variety of different people across the country. For some though, the cancer is hereditary.

“About 5-10 percent of colon cancer can be hereditary meaning you are born with a gene mutation that’s being passed down through the family and that can increase your chance of developing certain types of cancer such as colon cancer,” noted Katelyn Blondino, a genetic counselor at Sentara Martha Jefferson.

Blondino notes that while only a small percentage of colon cancer is found through genes, people who are at a higher risk, it is a very helpful tool.

“Individuals who have a strong family history of colon cancer, like several relatives that have had colorectal cancer or people who have relatives that are young and have colon cancer before the age of 50 are all good candidates for testing,” said Blondino. “Additionally, people who have had multiple generations affected by colon cancer, or any types of cancer, may also be candidates.”

Genetic testing just requires a simple blood draw that is done at the Cancer Center. If the test ends up showing a genetic mutation, it allows providers to work with patients on early detection and surveillance.

“If a patient does have a gene mutation that’s increasing their risk for developing colon cancer the hope is that we can get them in earlier for colonoscopies, sometimes starting in 20s, 30s or 40s depending on the gene or getting colonoscopies more frequently,” said Blondino.

The test is typically covered by insurance if patients have a strong family history.

Blondino suggests speaking with your physician if you think genetic testing might be right for you.

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, please email us at