Younger adults and colon/rectal cancer

This has been called “an issue screaming for action.”

US residents over age 50 routinely get screened for colorectal cancer.  The result is that the incidence of this cancer in this age group is declining.  The cancer is being caught early enough that it can be cured.

That’s the good news.

However, among adults less than 50 years of age, the incidence of cancer is increasing and it is being caught later.  According to MD Anderson, the problem is even more focused on those under 35 years of age.

  • The incidence is increasing by 2-3 percent per year among those under than age 50.

By 2030, colon cancer cases are expected to increase by 90%. And rectal cancer cases are expected to increase by 124% in patients age 35 and younger. [MD Anderson Cancer Center]

  • Because of the lack of screening and the fact that neither patients nor doctors are looking for it, the cancer is being caught at a much more advanced stage.

Catching it at a later stage is a problem for two reasons.

  1. If the patient survives, it could mean having to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of colostomy-endone’s life.  That’s a bag for collection of urine or feces, that has to be emptied manually 2 or 3 times per day. Surgery involves removing part of the colon and installing a stoma (opening) in one’s side or front through which waste empties into the bag.  Cleanliness and infection become major concerns.
  2. Of course, that’s if the patient survives.

People in their 20s are now being fitted with these bags.

What you need to know:

The symptoms of colorectal cancer can easily be mistaken for other illnesses, notably irritable bowel syndrome..

  • Colonoscopy remains the gold standard for diagnosis.
  • Heredity can affect risk; you need to know your family history.
  • “Any changes in your bowel movements, sudden changes in weight or abdominal pain should be taken seriously . . . .”  [MD Anderson]
  • Healthy diet and exercise can reduce cancer risk.



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