Familial GI Cancers Unit

Where can I Learn More about PJS?

The Familial Gastrointestinal Cancer Registry is a family study centre for families with different inherited polyp syndromes, including PJS. The focus of our Registry is to help families learn what steps can be taken to reduce the risk of cancer. We provide educational materials so that people can keep up to date with current treatment and research news.

Having access to practical information makes you feel less alone and may relieve some of the uncertainty which comes with a diagnosis of a rare disease. Referral to specialists across Canada with a particular interest in PJS is part of our service. Learning about PJS will allow you to make better health care decisions for yourself and your family.

If you would like to know more about PJS, please contact us.

How PJS is Inherited?

If an individual with a family history of PJS is affected, the children and siblings have a 50 per cent risk. The risk is the same for each pregnancy. If other family members have PJS, you may be diagnosed earlier as a result of bowel examination or freckling, before any bowel symptoms develop.

If no one else in the family has PJS except you, it may be that a spontaneous genetic change is responsible. You were probably diagnosed because you came to the doctor with cramping, with or without a blockage in the intestine, anemia, or a cancer.

If you are affected, your children will have the same 50 per cent risk of having inherited the PJS gene. PJS is a genetic condition which means that it can be passed from generation to generation within a family. PJS is passed through a family by way of a gene. Genes decide how our cells develop and how they work. When cells divide, the genes copy themselves. When copying takes place perfectly, genetic information is passed from one generation to the next without abnormalities. However, if even a tiny change occurs, a gene may carry the wrong information. Genetic research has recently identified a PJS gene on chrosomosome 19.

Scientists can now confirm a definite diagnosis of PJS in some affected families with PJS. Once the responsible genetic change is found in someone who has PJS, relatives who are at risk can have a gene test. Genetic counselling and testing is offered on a research basis for PJS. International research on PJS will ensure the expansion of knowledge about the genetic basis of this disease which, in turn, may lead to improved treatment.

What Happens if I have Hamartomas?

If you only have a few small hamartomas, the x-ray and examination of the large and small intestine should be repeated every 2 years. If a polyp is not too large and is in an area which can be reached by a scope, it may be possible to remove it through the scope. If a polyp is larger than 1.5 cm, it should be surgically removed. Surgery may also be indicated for abdominal pain when worrisome intestinal polyps are picked up on x-ray or a scope, or a bowel blockage occurs, or the polyps bleed, or a change in polyp tissue is diagnosed microscopically.

Why do some people with PJS develop cancer?

There is an increased risk for cancer, either in the tissue of a hamartoma or an adenoma, within the gastrointestinal tract. For women with PJS, a somewhat increased chance of developing cancer of the breast, ovaries, or cervix has been reported.

For men, cancer of the testis has been observed slightly more frequently than in the general population . Cancer of the pancreas may also occur. This does not mean that everyone with PJS will develop cancer. It is important to be alert for symptoms such as ongoing abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, yellowing of the skin, or unexplained tiredness. A blood test can be done to check the hemoglobin every year to ensure that anemia is not present.

PJS Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What are the symptoms of PJS?

People are generally diagnosed because of crampy abdominal pain and a bloated feeling. One or more hamartomas may twist on a stalk and block the inside of the small intestine. Constipation may alternate with diarrhea. As hamartomas rub against the intestinal lining, bleeding may occur, leading to persistent tiredness and lack of energy. Severe anemia may develop as a result of significant bleeding which is not detected or treated and should be an important warning sign in someone who has a family history of PJS.

How is PJS diagnosed?

X-ray examination of the small intestine using a contrast dye is performed to highlight the intestine.

The small intestine is divided into the duodenum which comes first, the jejunum in the middle, and the final portion called the ileum. A flexible tube with an optical system called a gastroscope is passed into the windpipe, stomach, and the duodenum.

A colonoscope is a similarly lighted tube which allows the doctor to examine the large bowel, sometimes called the colon. Both tubes have a wire loop which can be inserted to remove all or part of any polyps seen. This tissue can then be biopsied, or examined microscopically, to confirm the type of polyp.

How is PJS treated?

Treatment is tailored to each patient and is mostly confined to removal of large polyps and the area of affected bowel. Patients require examination of the large and small intestine using flexible fibre optic instruments which have a wire loop to remove all or part of the polyp(s) in the large bowel and in the first part of the small intestine. Special bowel x-rays highlight the remainder of the small intestine.

 

 

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