Colorectal cancer is not usually viewed as a threat to those under the age of 50. However, a recent study by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance has discovered that colon cancer is on the rise in young people. Because colon cancer is a seemingly strange diagnosis for someone under 50 years old, some young adults are misdiagnosed. In fact, of the 1,535 colorectal cancer survivors that were surveyed, 82% were misdiagnosed. Researchers believe that this high rate of misdiagnosis is largely a result of confusing symptoms. Symptoms of colorectal cancer are difficult to discern—especially in the early stages. This is why regular screenings are encouraged. Colonoscopies can detect cancer years before symptoms begin. Because colonoscopies are not typically offered to adults before they turn 50, colorectal cancer is easily missed. If you are under the age of 50, be sure you are educated about the risk factors of colon cancer and how the information in this study might impact you.
Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
Although the study revealed that 62% of adults that were diagnosed did not have a family history of colon cancer, find out your family history and share it with your GI doctor. A family history of colon cancer puts you at a higher risk, and may encourage your physician to screen you for colon cancer early. Many people that are diagnosed before they turn 35 have a genetic abnormality that increases their potential for colon cancer. Lynch Syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are two genetic mutations that make you prone to a cancer diagnosis. With Lynch Syndrome, your genes are unable to repair mistakes made in your DNA, and FAP is a condition that produces polyps in the colon. Polyps are noncancerous growths in the tissue of the colon that become cancerous over the course of time. Without regular colonoscopies and treatment of FAP, colon cancer is guaranteed to form. If you have an immediate family member who has been diagnosed, you may be at risk and should consider genetic testing in order to be better prepared for a potential colon cancer diagnosis. Colorectal cancer is also easily misdiagnosed for irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) because the symptoms of IBD are similar to those in the early stages of colorectal cancer. Pay attention to your bowel movements and notify your GI doctor if you discover abdominal pain, thinning in your stool, blood in your stool, a dark stool, or sudden changes in your weight. These may all indicate a presence of colorectal cancer.
Results of the Study
In the survey performed by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, colon cancer made up 71% of the cancer survivors surveyed, and 28% survived rectal cancer. This proves that colon cancer is a more rampant diagnosis for adults under the age of 50. According to the survey, more than half of those diagnosed were between the ages of 40 and 49. 34% were between the ages of 30 and 39, and shockingly, 8% were under the age of 30. The survey revealed the importance of regular colon cancer screening because 73% of the adults surveyed were diagnosed in stage III or IV. Most people do not schedule a colonoscopy until they turn 50 so the risk for young adults to receive a diagnosed in a late stage of colorectal cancer is rising. Researchers believe over the next 12 years we can anticipate a 90% increase in colon cancer and 124% increase in rectal cancer in adults under the age of 35.
Preventing Colon Cancer
There are choices you can make that not only promote an overall healthy lifestyle, but can lower your risk for colorectal cancer. We recommend avoiding a sedentary lifestyle by exercising for at least 30 minutes every day. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains and limit your consumption of red meat, tobacco products, and alcohol. This will also help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your risk for colon cancer low. These lifestyle changes are sacrifices that are well worth it.
If you are at risk for colon cancer or want a GI specialist to consider giving you an early screening, schedule an appointment at GI Associates today. You can meet with one of our specialist at the location most convenient for you. GI Associates also offers HyGIeaCare as a non-oral prep for colonoscopies. Find out if HyGIeaCare is right for you.