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American Cancer Society says younger people are being diagnosed with colon cancer

Colon Cancer Screening
Posted at 10:08 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 00:43:46-04

DENVER — The American Cancer Society says younger people are being diagnosed with colon cancer at nearly twice the rate than in 1995.

The ACS said colon cancer diagnosis jumped from 11% in 1995 to 20% in 2019. UCHealth University of Colorado of Hospital gastroenterologist Dr. Swati Patel says that alarming trend needs more awareness this Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Carissa Martinez, 34, of Broomfield was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 29.

“I just have a nice big scar and I’m missing a foot of my colon,” said Martinez.

"It was stage 2B, so it hadn't quite eaten through the lining of my colon, so it hadn't spread,” said Martinez.

She went to the emergency room for stomach pain.

“I remember laying on the couch here every morning with cramps and kind of laid in a ball,” said Martinez.

She had emergency surgery, didn't need treatment and feels lucky her cancer was caught just in time. While Martinez had multiple symptoms leading up to her diagnosis and saw multiple doctors, she says cancer never crossed her mind.

"They just thought you know, try eating this diet, try getting rid of gluten,” said Martinez.

"Just because you're young and healthy doesn't mean something else can't be going on,” Patel.

Dr. Patel, who just got back from Washington, D.C. for President Biden's Cancer Moonshot Initiative, said it's important to be your own advocate if something doesn't seem right. She stresses that colon cancer trends have been shifting not only in the U.S., but worldwide.

"We’ve seen the rates of colon and rectal cancer increasing in those under the age of 50, 55, since the 1970's,” said Dr. Patel.

Dr. Patel said it's not clear why the shift to younger people is happening. She said the disease in younger patients is often diagnosed at later stages with no history or risk factors. The American Cancer Society said this year, around 153,020 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 52,550 people will die from the disease.

What can people do to prevent colon cancer? Dr. Patel stressed talking to your relatives.

"Those who have a family history of colon cancer, a family history of advanced colon polyps, that can turn into cancer and have increased risk,” said Dr. Patel.

She said if you're having any symptoms like bleeding or stomach pain, see your doctor and get a colonoscopy.

“Know your family history. Listen to your body and if something doesn't feel right, stand up for yourself,” said Martinez.

Martinez is coming up on the five-year mark since her diagnosis, so she said the chance of recurrence drops. However, because of her and her family's health history she gets bloodwork every six months and will get a colonoscopy once a year for the rest of her life.

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