Cancer Survivor, Medical Team Rally Support for Genetic Testing of Lynch Syndrome

LAKE SUCCESS, NY – Edward Sweeney is proud to call himself a cancer survivor and says he hopes his story will prompt others to get a simple blood test that could save their lives.

 “Today I can call myself a survivor because I was lucky enough to be diagnosed early on,” Mr. Sweeney said Friday. “It’s my hope that others will pay attention to this, and get a simple blood test that could save their lives.”

Mr. Sweeney, 47, of Bayside, Queens, joined a genetics counselor and an oncologist at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute to urge anyone with a family history of colorectal disease to get tested early for Lynch Syndrome. LS is an inherited disorder that increased the risk of many types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. People with LS also have an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, small intestine, gall bladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain and skin. Women with LS have a high risk of cancer of the ovaries or lining of the uterus.

Sharona Cohen,  MS, Program Director, Cancer Genetics has been active in pushing people with a family history of certain cancers to get tested for LS. The state has joined the crusade ---Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently designated March 22 as Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Public Awareness Day. The move aligns New York with several other states that have called for increased awareness and genetic testing for Lynch Syndrome.

Ms. Cohen called the number of people with LS that get cancer “staggering.”

 “LS represents the underlying genetic cause for 1 in 35 men and women diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 1 in 40 women diagnosed with endometrial cancer,” she said. “In fact, doctors estimate that about 3 out of every 100 colon cancers are caused by LS.”

Craig Devoe, MD, an oncologist at the Cancer Institute, stressed the importance of routine testing for LS.

“My plea today is for all my physician colleagues to be aware of this condition and advocate for testing,” he said. “Screening is such an important way to improve our patients’ chances for survival.”

No one agrees more than Mr. Sweeney, who was diagnosed with colon cancer just two days shy of his 46th birthday. After being treated successfully for cancer, he asked to be tested for Lynch Syndrome and decided to take action when the results were positive.

“I asked my brother to be tested…it turns out he was positive as well,” he said.

One year cancer-free, Mr. Sweeney is still convincing other family members to be tested for LS—a test he firmly believes to be a life-saver.

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