Colon cancer trending younger: When should you get screened?

Archive, Feel Good, Month, September, Topics

A pair of high-profile colon cancer deaths have many people thinking about screenings

This summer, two high-profile deaths pushed colon cancer awareness into the minds of many, to the benefit of their future health.

Colon cancer is the no. 2
cause of cancer death of
men and women combined
in the United States.

The death of Marvel star Chadwick Boseman came as a shock to so many around the world, while locally Jamie Samuelsen’s death stunned many who were used to hearing his voice daily on the radio.

Making these truly tragic were their ages: Boseman at 43 and Samuelsen at 48.

These two are unfortunately part of a national trend of patients diagnosed with colon cancer at increasingly at younger ages, considering the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends regular screenings starting at age 50, and the American Cancer Society at 45, for those at average risk.

“Science hasn’t matured enough to tell us why younger patients are developing colorectal cancer in increasing numbers,” said Dr. Philip Philip, leader of the Gastrointestinal & Neuroendocrine Tumors Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos Cancer Institute. “We have seen over the last 10-15 years an appreciable increase in young patients with newly diagnosed colon or rectal cancer. Most patients present with stage 4 advanced disease since symptoms don’t often appear until the cancer has spread.”

When it comes to any form of cancer, early detection is key to giving the patient the best chance for effective treatment.

With many advanced symptoms not appearing until the cancer progresses, it becomes vital that everyone pay close attention to seemingly unassociated symptoms that could potentially be the early signs of colon cancer.

Those symptoms are:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Alternating between constipation and diarrhea, or changes in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Abdominal bloating, cramps or discomfort
  • Feeling of bowels not completely emptying
  • Stools are thinner than usual

Additionally, guidelines only cover those at an average risk.

Talk to your doctor about a screening before the recommended age if:

  • Have a personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • Confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
  • Personal history of getting radiation treatment to the abdomen or pelvic area for previous cancer treatment