Family History Service

The Colorectal Family History Service aims to identify individuals who are at an increased risk of colorectal cancer and then, where appropriate, give them the option to take part in the recommended surveillance programme.

The service is run by two colorectal nurse practitioners who are part of a larger team which includes colorectal surgeons, colorectal nurse specialists, radiologists and genetics counsellors.

Patients are assessed initially through a screening questionnaire. Family histories are then verified and patients are offered an in-depth interview to discuss their family history and explain their risk. Those individuals who are assessed as 'high risk' may be referred to our City Hospital's Genetics Service for consideration for genetic testing.

Screening programme

The preferred method of screening for people with an increased risk of developing bowel cancer is a colonoscopy.  A colonoscope is a thin, flexible telescope. It is passed through the anus and along the colon (large bowel). Patients may be lightly sedated during the procedure.

If polyps are found in the colon they will usually be removed at the time of the procedure although in a very small number of cases a second colonoscopy may be required. Removing the polyps significantly reduces the risk of cancer developing.

The frequency of colonoscopy depends on what is found at examination and on the significance of the family history. It may be a one-off colonoscopy, usually performed at around 55 years of age, or it may be carried out every two years if the family is known to be at risk from Lynch Syndrome.

The NHS has now introduced bowel cancer screening for everybody living the UK aged 60 to 74. The Colorectal Family History Clinic aims to provide additional screening for those individuals at an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Referral to clinic

Before we can offer any advice you need to be referred to the clinic by your GP or other healthcare professional. You will then be sent a family history questionnaire, which you should complete with as much information as possible. Return the completed questionnaire to us and we will then be able to offer an appointment or advice.

It is helpful if you could also send us copies of any relatives' death certificates or relevant medical information. If these are unavailable, we will try to confirm cases of cancer with the various cancer registries throughout the country (these have records from the mid-1970s).

Once we have obtained as much information as possible we will offer you advice on your risk of developing colorectal cancer, whether genetic testing is appropriate, and bowel screening options. You may be offered an appointment in our outpatient clinic, telephone advice.

Contact us

The Colorectal Family History Service is based at QMC in Clinic 2, B Floor, South Block and runs on Tuesday afternoons.

For more information contact Cathy Sutton, Family History Secretary, on 0115 924 9924 Ext: 64197.

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