La conexión entre adultos jóvenes y el cáncer de colon

Jill MacDonald, ambassador for the Fight against Colorectal Cancer [Lucha contra el cáncer colorrectal], was 37 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer (also known as colon cancer) in 2015. “I’ve been dealing with this for over nine years,” MacDonald said. “I have undergone an unimaginable number of chemotherapy treatments, radiation, surgeries, procedures, etc.”

Initially, they ignored MacDonald’s symptoms. “He had night sweats consistently, a little bit of blood in my stool,” he explained. “Sometimes I had a slightly uncomfortable feeling in my abdomen. I had back pain. My doctor told me it was possibly just hemorrhoids (swollen veins in the year and lower part of the rectum).”

Unfortunately, MacDonald’s doctor was wrong and she is one of the growing number of people who are diagnosed with colon cancer at younger than traditional ages.

Colon cancer, the third most common cancer in the US, is diagnosed more frequently in older adults. However, the disease is occurring more frequently in people under 50 years of age and is now the third most deadly type of cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 49 years. And, according to statistics from a March 2023 report from the American Cancer Society, approximately 19,550 people under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with colon cancer. This is a 9% increase since 2020.

Colorectal cancer that is diagnosed in someone who is younger than 50 is known as early-onset colorectal cancer. As more and more younger adults are receiving diagnoses, doctors and researchers have noticed that they are more likely to develop an aggressive manner of the disease and have a 40% more likely of receiving diagnoses in more advanced stages.

The five-year survival rate for colon cancer it is 90%, reducing to 71% for stage 3 and 14% for stage 4. The five-year survival rate is the percentage of people in a study or treatment who are still alive five years after being diagnosed or starting cancer treatment.

Late diagnosis of colon cancer

Many young people do not think that colon cancer is something they can have, which can cause delays in diagnosis.

“The problem is that getting diagnosed later than you might expect for older populations because most people don’t think they can have cancer,” he said. Nehal J. Lakhani, MD, Ph.D., director of clinical research at the START Center for Cancer Research Midwest. “They are more likely not to try to get medical care. They could attribute blood in the stool to hemorrhoids or something else.”

Additionally, doctors do not offer screening for young adults for early-onset colorectal cancer. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults between the ages of 45 and 75 years have colorectal tests. However, millennials, people born between 1981 and 1996, have the double jeopardy of colorectal cancer compared to people born in 1950.

“We, as doctors, do not recognize symptoms in younger populations because we do not expect them to have cancer due to our general understanding of the disease,” Lakhani said.

Why are more and more young adults receiving colon cancer diagnoses?

Researchers are unsure of the reason behind the increase in young adults receiving colon cancer diagnoses. Genetics may play a role in getting colon cancer at a young age, particularly if you have the lynch syndrome. However, that does not explain the increase. Lifestyle factorsTales such as lack of exercise or alcohol and tobacco use and environmental exposure to toxins and chemicals are considered possible influences.

Other theories are:

Red or processed meats: The NCI reports that red or processed meats are associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Some examples of specific foods include beef, pork, and lamb.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meats as a group 1 carcinogen, the same level of certainty as cigarette smoking,” Lakhani explained. “Red meat is also classified as a carcinogen, but in a lower category as a group 2 carcinogen.”

Socioeconomic status: A person’s socioeconomic status includes their education, income, and type of job. People with a lower socioeconomic status have less access to medical resources and worse health than people with a higher socioeconomic status. With that in mind, younger adults with lower socioeconomic status may be more likely to get colon cancer.

“If you have a lower socioeconomic status, you might not have health insurance,” Lakhani said. “Or you might have access to health care, but not the best quality.”

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer in younger adults

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer (cancer in the colon and rectum) may include:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Dark or black stools
  • Unintentional weight loss

The NCI reports four additional potential warning signs of colorectal cancer in younger adults, including:

  • stomachache
  • bloody rectal
  • diarrhea
  • Iron deficiency anemia

How to prevent or reduce the risk of colon cancer

Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer:

Follow a healthy diet

  • Avoid red or processed meats
  • Add a good portion of fruits and vegetables to your diet.
  • Eat a high amount of fiber, between 21 and 28 grams daily for women, depending on your age

Stay basically active

Defend your rights

Because testing is recommended in combination for older adults, and because health care providers (HCPs) may ignore your symptoms, it’s important to advocate for your health rights.

Read: My doctor ignored warning signs of my colon cancer because he thought they were normal symptoms of pregnancy >>

“If you are a young patient, you may be forced to defend your rights to take advantage of the benefits of the health system,” Lakhani said. “[Si] you still have symptoms and they are not being investigated, you may need to push for [obtener atención médica]”.

If you suspect you have colon cancer, visit your healthcare provider quickly and don’t take no for an answer if you want testing. Get a second opinion if you feel like your healthcare provider isn’t listening to you.

If you are diagnosed with colon cancer, Lakhani suggests finding a good oncologist quickly and addressing the problem as soon as possible so you can get the best results.

This educational resource was prepared with the support of Merck.

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