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Advances in colon cancer testing

March 30, 2012 1:51:06 PM PDT
Scientists are making advances in genetic testing for colon cancer.

Frank Garritano never thought he would be diagnosed with colon cancer ever let alone at the age of 40. A marathon runner and restaurant owner in Orangeburg, New York, Frank got the diagnosis just days after celebrating his daughter Isabella's first birthday

"Physically I felt great. I was running 30 miles a week," he said.

Colon cancer can affect anyone. That's why a colonoscopy is recommended for everyone over 50, but scientists are getting better at figuring out who may be most at risk.

"This work is all about who needs to be screened before age 50? Who needs to be screened earlier and perhaps more often?" Dr. Thomas Weber said.

Dr. Weber, a surgical oncologist at SUNY Downstate, says that by working with researchers around the world, they have discovered genetic mutations or clues in the dna.

"There are currently over 12,000 reports of mismatched repeari genes associated with early onset colorectal cancer," he said.

So it's not black and white. Just because you have the genetic mutations doesn't mean you'll get colon cancer, but with more research it's becoming more and more targeted

Dr. Weber says if you have the most concerning genetic changes known to date, your lifetime risk of colon cancer is up to 80-percent. So if you have a strong family history of colon cancer, ask your doctor to see a genetic counselor to see if genetic testing is worth it for you.

Frank learned he has one dna mutation and hopes this information will help his family get screened earlier. After a year of surgeries and chemotherapy he says he takes nothing for granted.

"The fact that we're all sitting here together means everything is perfect," Garritano laughed.

He is running again. This weekend he will be joining thousands of other runners and walkers in central park for the 9th annual New York Colon Cancer Challenge. It's on Sunday, April 1st starting at 9:00 a.m. WABC-TV is the proud sponsor of the event. So far they've raised almost half a million dollars for colon cancer research.

ONLINE:
The Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Colorectal Cancer: http://www.cgaicc.com/

Colon Cancer Challenge Quiz: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/feature?section=resources/lifestyle_community/community&id=8589624

WABC Informational Page: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=resources/lifestyle_community/community&id=8568932

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