Stomach condition

It's a condition as baffling as it is serious for members of this extended family it's like a potential time bomb.

Matthew is just 18, recently he was confronted with a drastic decision to make - undergo radical life-changing surgery or risk developing an aggressive form of cancer.

The teenager discovered he had an inherited condition that cause polyps to grow, when checked his stomach was riddled with them putting him at great risk of cancer.

Matthew's condition is called Gastric Adeno-carcinoma and Proximal Poly-posis of the Stomach - more simply referred to as HAPPS and he's not alone.

These people are all related to Matthew and they too have had surgery to prevent the risk of stomach cancer. What links them is a common heritage, they are all descendants of two people Emma and Mathius Powell who moved to Australia from England in the early 1900's - Gayle has tracked the family tree. Gayle wants to warn other descendants to get checked but tracking them down has been a difficult task. Finding them has become all the more urgent as some family members have died from Stomach cancer - they didn't have the chance to decide on surgery.

"Even if we know about them because of confidentiality and privacy laws we can't ring up people that haven't had contact with us." Lynne Schofield from Genetics W.A is working with the family - As yet the gene responsible hasn't been identified. "Once the gene is found then everyone can have a blood test so then you'll know unequivocally whether you've got it or not, if you don't have the gene you don't have the condition we can't do that yet til they find the gene."

While having the surgery is a drastic measure - you can survive without a stomach - if fact many people chose a not dissimilar procedure for weight loss. "Really the surgery is very similar to bariatric surgery or stomach banding what people have where they reduce your intake, the actual after effect is very similar to those sorts of people." Many of these family members didn't know each other until they became part of this unusual club now they share stories and support.

GAPPS stomach condition information

If you believe you're a descendant of the Powell family contact Genetics WA.

Lyn Shofield - Genetic Services of Western Australia

King Edward Memorial Hospital

374 Bagot Road

SUBIACO

Phone: (08) 9340 1525

Email: gswa@health.wa.gov.au