Whilst colorectal cancer cases are generally on the decline since the beginning of the millennium, there seems to be an alarming rise in those under 50 hit by the disease. Since 1992, the number of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer has risen by two percent per year.
One example, given by the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, who have published an article as part of Cancer Awareness month starting 19th March, cites the shocking case of Jessica Nixon from Conshohocken, PA. who was diagnosed with rectal cancer at the age of only 25.
Severe stomach cramps and constipation for six months finally prompted her doctor to order a colonoscopy, which revealed stage three colon cancer. She braved six weeks of chemo and radiation six years ago, but the cancer spread to her lungs and liver and she's had to suffer further surgery and regular bouts of chemo to keep the disease from killing her.
Scott D. Goldstein, M.D., Director of the Division of Colorectal Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital said :
"We're seeing a growing trend of more colorectal cancer patients under 50, some even under 40 ... Screening isn't recommended until age 50, so many of these cases aren't caught early. The problem is the younger they are, the more likely they are to ignore symptoms of more advanced stages of the disease. Who thinks they have colon cancer at 40, 35 or even 25?"
Jessica is now 30, and is a patient of Dr. Goldstein and medical oncologist Edith P. Mitchell, M.D., FACP, of Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center (KCC). She was shocked but is doing her best to deal with it :
"I was definitely shocked when I found out ... But I am living with it, and I am fighting it. Even though this is a chronic disease for me in many ways, I have a pretty normal life: I work and travel. That's the reason I am doing it, to have my life."
Another example they give cites Kristine, a 38 year old mother from Mount Laurel, N.J., who kept seeing blood in her stools after giving birth to her third child. She thought it was probably hemorrhoids and never imagined cancer was on the cards, considering it a disease reserved for the elderly.
Whilst it is true that the average age that people as a whole are diagnosed with colorectal cancer is 71, giving the impression it's something that mainly affects the elderly, it's by no means restricted only to that age group.
The important thing is for people to be aware of this and consult with their doctor if they see any changes to their bowel movements, blood, pain or other discomfort, especially anything long lasting.
As most people are probably aware, the sooner a cancer is detected, the quicker and easier it is to treat and the less likelihood there is of it having spread to other parts of the body. There are more than 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer identified in the US each year, so early screening is important. Dr. Mitchell recommends the new guidelines from the American College of Physicians in regard to assessing the need for a screening :
"The more we know sooner, the better. Colon cancer can be treatable and beatable."Written by Rupert Shepherd