In order to protect families from hereditary cancers, Gov. Brian Sandoval has joined other state governors in declaring Wednesday, Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancers Public Awareness Day in Nevada.
"We are touched and humbled by the recognition, concern and compassion of Governor Sandoval and his commitment toward protection of the people," said Linda Snelling Bruzzone, a former Carson City resident and executive director of Lynch Syndrome International, based in Vacaville, Calif. "This selfless act of standing up against hereditary cancers will save many lives which may have been unnecessarily jeopardized due to lack of awareness. For that, we are so very grateful."
Lynch syndrome is caused by a defective mismatched repair gene that ordinarily repairs defects occurring during DNA replication. As a result, errors continue to mount and tumors and cancers are likely to develop, often at a young age.
More than 600,000 people in the United States are projected to be affected by Lynch syndrome, however, less than 5 percent have been diagnosed to date. The rest are left vulnerable and cancers are often not detected until the later stages of development when survivability is uncertain.
Those with Lynch syndrome have an extremely high lifetime risk of contracting aggressive cancers that may become life threatening within 1-3 years, opposed to 5-10 years for sporadic cancers. Lifetime risks include up to 85 percent for contracting colon cancer; 65-70 percent for endometrial cancer and a higher than average risk of contracting a litany of other cancers including those of the gastric tract, ovaries, liver, gallbladder duct, pancreas, ureters, bladder, kidneys, prostate, skin and the brain. Children of individuals with LS face a 50 percent chance of acquiring the gene.
Currently, there is no cure, but hope exists through genetic testing. Diagnosis of Lynch syndrome begins with the individual knowing their family medical history of development of cancers. The physician will assess it and then determine whether or not to refer an individual to a genetic counselor for further assessment or to immediately prescribe genetic testing (a simple blood test or saliva swab.)
If positive, patients with Lynch syndrome are dependent upon their physicians to be screened for cancers on an annual basis and polyps and tumors can be detected and removed or treated before reaching a life threatening stage. As a result, those with Lynch syndrome may live longer than previous generations because of early detection and preventative measures.
Bruzzone, a Lynch syndrome survivor, was raised in Carson City and has been a long-time resident of Nevada, currently residing part-time in Clark County. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 (C ) colorectal cancer in 2007, following a physician recognizing the family risk of inherited cancer and prescribing a colonoscopy.
In 2009, Bruzzone created Lynch Syndrome International.
"It was a tribute to my father, Hap Snelling, of Carson City, who underwent so many difficult cancers prior to his death in 1997," Bruzzone said. "People need to know there is hope and today, nobody needs to fear hereditary cancer. We can live longer than ever before with good medical care and educated physicians. We are so very grateful to our physicians who keep us alive by prescribing annual testing."
To learn more about Lynch syndrome, visit www.lynchcancers.com, sponsored by Lynch Syndrome International, a nonprofit, all volunteer organization, dedicated toward Lynch syndrome support, education, research endeavors and public awareness.