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Does anyone know whether there are scans for cancers (not a specific cancer)?

(6 Posts)
crokky Thu 19-Feb-09 15:10:46

My DH's family seem very prone to cancer. DH's grandad, DH's dad and all DH's uncles and his aunt have all developed cancer, in some cases starting from their 30s. In most cases, it has been fatal sad. Very fortunately, FIL is still alive because his cancer (which had no symptoms whatsoever) was picked up by chance when he moved house and the new GP wanted him to have a thorough checkup and he was able to have surgery before it spread.

Are there any sort of scans that DH could have, say every year, as he is now in his thirties (which is when his youngest uncle died)? All the cancers which his family have had have been different ones, so there is not one particular area to be wary of. Also, they seem to be totally symptomless until it is way too late. DH's uncle went to the GP with backache recently and was given painkillers and told to come back if not better in 2 weeks. He went back and after tests and hospital etc was given just a month to live sad. I am getting really worried about my DH and want him to have some scan or something but I just don't know what there is or how to go about it (we are willing to pay). Any help greatly appreciated!

cass66 Thu 19-Feb-09 15:19:52

not really, total body scans I suppose but not generally available, and not so good if not looking for specific things.

He could ask his GP about genetic testing - get referred to a genetist for DNA testing, if all his fathers side of the family are affected. they could carry a cancer gene. Where are you?, as there is a good genetics service in Leeds.

crokky Thu 19-Feb-09 15:25:31

We are not near Leeds (in the SW). I hadn't thought of genetic testing, but it sounds like something I could look into for DH. I did think that they must all be carrying some sort of genetic predisposition to cancer but I didn't know that you could test for it.

theyoungvisiter Thu 19-Feb-09 15:26:20

but genetic tests are only for certain cancers - ie a gene for breast cancer predisposition - rather than cancer generally. And most cancers don't yet have a linked gene.

Sadly 1/3 of the UK population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes - and that will probably increase as we get longer-lived. So although your DH's family has been unlucky I think it's more probably a statistical blip if the cancers are not related. (should say I'm not an expert at all - just someone with a family history of some cancers so I know a little about it from that).

FaintlyMacabre Thu 19-Feb-09 15:36:56

How worrying for you sad. Given the strong family history of cancers at a young age it might be worth asking for a referral to a clinical geneticist. There are some cancer causing genes that run in families but that can affect different organs -breast/ovary is one example.
A clinical geneticist would take a thorough history and then see if there was any particular pattern to the cancers that have affected the family, if there was a pattern then some form of screening might be appropriate.
General scans done without looking for anything in particular can often cause more problems than they solve - sometimes things such as cysts are found which have to be biopsied (with associated anxiety and pain) but turn out to be benign. Or a scan could give false reassurance if it wasn't targeted correctly.
This is a difficult area- I hope you manage to find some answers/reassurance.

BecauseImWorthIt Thu 19-Feb-09 15:59:56

It would be a good idea to create a family tree, and mark on it all those who have died from or contracted cancer, as well as what kind of cancer they suffered from. Take this with you to the GP as it will indicate the seriousness of your request, just in case the doctor needs any persuading to send him for genetic counselling.

This information will be what the genetics counseller will ask for anyway.

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