Jeff Dincher didn’t choose Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that led to a stage III rectal cancer diagnosis at age 24. However, because of biomarker testing, Jeff was able to prevent his children from inheriting the Lynch syndrome gene, thereby decreasing their chances of developing cancer in their lifetimes.
Biomarker testing is a form of precision medicine. It is a way to find out what's unique about a person's cancer and help doctors choose the best treatment for each person. This healthcare approach allows patients to go beyond a one-size-fits-all treatment plan with more individualized options.
While many cancer patients get biomarker testing at diagnosis to explore treatment options, it can also help years after treatment and in unexpected ways. Informed by biomarker testing, Jeff and his wife were able to have multiple successful IVF-pregnancies that gave them greater peace of mind about their children’s overall well-being.
“The one consistency among all parents is that they would do anything they could possibly to protect their children,” Jeff said. “The fact that you can do this through biomarkers before they are even conceived does exactly that. Why wouldn’t you consider it if you could prevent someone from going through what you had to?”
Learning how biomarkers helped Jeff and his family and what biomarkers might be available to you is an important first step in improving overall health outcomes and saving lives.
From Recent College Graduate to Stage III Cancer Patient
It was 2002 and Jeff had just graduated college and moved to a new city to start his career. He had a good job, good friends, and a supportive family. He was ready to take on the world. But his whole life changed in a matter of moments. After getting checked out for some ongoing health issues, Jeff was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer.
“It was terrifying,” Jeff said. “I was in complete shock. My father died from colorectal cancer when I was 16, but I guess I just didn’t think that was a possibility for me. When you’re a kid and you lose your father, you don’t really care how you lost him.”
Jeff wasn’t aware he had Lynch syndrome, a condition he inherited that put him at greater risk of developing CRC. He had no idea he should have been getting checked for colorectal cancer at a young age due to his family history and an underlying Lynch syndrome diagnosis. Without knowledge of his family’s health history, Jeff was unprepared for the issues he could encounter.
Fortunately, Jeff had a good support system to help him navigate his diagnosis. After a total colectomy, surgery to remove his cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, he was finally declared NED (no evidence of disease) after a long and difficult year. Yet, it wasn’t until years later that Jeff would learn about biomarker testing and how it would help him plan his future.
Using Biomarker Testing in Family Planning
Jeff met his wife when he was 30. After experiencing some difficulties with conceiving, they decided to see a fertility specialist. When going through Jeff’s medical history, he was made aware of a biomarker testing option that would allow them to only use samples without the Lynch syndrome gene. This guaranteed that Jeff would not pass along his Lynch syndrome diagnosis to his children.
“I would highly recommend that anyone with a hereditary condition consider using biomarker testing as a part of their family planning,” Jeff said. “As a parent and the one who’s gone through cancer myself, I’d do anything to protect my children.”
Jeff and his wife conceived two children using IVF and biomarker testing. They also had a third child, naturally, who did inherit the Lynch syndrome gene. However, Jeff and his wife are committed to staying educated and supporting their daughter in an effort to minimize her risk of CRC and other cancers.
Jeff has a message for parents with children who have Lynch syndrome, or to those who are experiencing a cancer diagnosis themselves.
“Reach out to as many people as you possibly can to support you,” Jeff said. “Find out as much information as you can. Once you get past this, it will always be a part of you and your story, but you can still have a future. You can still do the things you want to do in life.”
For Jeff, that means building a family and doing everything he can to keep them safe.
Biomarker Tests Available to CRC Patients
Just as Jeff stated, it’s important to get as much information as you can when facing something like a colorectal cancer diagnosis. The more we know, the better we can drive our outcomes and make our healthcare system work for us.
While Jeff was able to utilize specific biomarker testing for his family planning purposes, there are many other biomarkers that colorectal cancer patients may need to be aware of.
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance understands just how impactful biomarker testing can be to a patient’s outcome. You can find educational material about these important components of precision medicine on the Alliance’s website.
Here, we have specific information on the 14 most common biomarker tests available for colorectal cancer patients. Arming yourself with this information allows you to be better prepared when discussing treatment options with your doctor.
Jeff and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance
Jeff, now 46, has been through quite a lot over the past 22 years. He happily reports that he has gone on to do a lot of things in life he always wanted to do.
“For the longest time I wanted to give back, but couldn’t find the venue that felt right to me,” Jeff said. “When I reached out to the Alliance, it was extremely easy to get involved. Knowing that they support others with colorectal cancer and provide lifesaving information to patients – such as biomarker testing – made it a natural fit for me and my story.”
“Even with a full time job and three little kids at home, I feel called to be involved and am thrilled to have started this relationship with the Alliance,” Jeff said. “While this diagnosis has made it much more difficult for me to do things I once did with ease, it is still possible. You really can do whatever you want to if you work hard enough.”
In Jeff’s case, he was able to have a healthy and happy family despite being a cancer survivor and Lynch syndrome patient. This was, in large part, thanks to advancements in biomarker testing.
If you or someone you know is facing a colorectal cancer diagnosis, make sure they learn about biomarker testing that may be available to them. You never know how a simple test could change your life.
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