A Queens man who was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago has joined the fight to help raise awareness for a genetic syndrome that a group of doctors at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital say can help save lives if detected early.
Edward Sweeney, a Bayside resident who was treated for the disease in 2012, joined physicians at North Shore-LIJ’s Monter Cancer Center last week and urged the public to get tested for Lynch Syndrome, a hereditary disorder that doctors say increases the risk of certain cancer types.
Sweeney, now 47, and his brother both tested positive for the syndrome shortly after learning they both had colon cancer, and he is now working to create better awareness and educate others.
Dr. John Procaccino, chief of the division of colorectal surgery at North Shore-LIJ, said March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently declared March 22 as Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day in order to help spread the word about the little-known genetic disorder.
According to Procaccino, a positive test result revealing the presence of Lynch Syndrome can help determine if a patient is at a higher risk for developing colon, stomach, skin or intestinal cancers and can enable doctors to better decide how to prevent and treat such conditions.
“Prevention is key and I think a push for testing is the most important thing,” said Sweeney. “I wish more people would speak out and educate others about Lynch Syndrome. It’s a genetic issue.”
Dr. Sharona Cohen, program director of cancer genetics at North Shore-LIJ, said that not many doctors are aware yet of what Lynch Syndrome is and how it can affect a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
A presentation she gave at last week’s meeting said that one out of every 35 people with colon cancer tests positive for Lynch Syndrome, and tests can be done either by testing a tumor already present or by taking a blood sample from someone who does not have cancer but wants to find out if he or she has an increased risk.
“Our goal is to really raise awareness and share this information,” she said. “This is way more common than we originally thought and lives can be saved simply by making this diagnosis.”
Sweeney, who said he had never heard of Lynch Syndrome before his diagnosis, is now cancer-free and said he believes being tested for the disorder and knowing which treatments will be most successful is a life-saving decision that everyone should make.
Working with the North Shore-LIJ doctors who diagnosed him, Sweeney said he will continue to advocate for the awareness of Lynch Syndrome in hopes of getting the word out about a diagnosis that helped save his life.
“I found my cancer early and I’m able to be here and talk about it and say I’m a survivor,” he said. “You can survive and overcome this.”
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cn
©2014 Community News Group
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