YOUR HEALTH: Colorectal cancer; Alarming rates in young people

February is National Cancer Prevention month.
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 6:04 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 7:21 AM CST
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BOSTON, MA (Ivanhoe Newswire) - February is National Cancer Prevention month. Experts say it’s essentially important that all adults, including young adults, learn the signs and symptoms of cancer so they know what is normal and when they should see their doctor. For example, did you know that colorectal cancer is on the rise in young people, and is on track to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in adults under fifty?

When the Black Panther sequel hit movie theaters late last year, it was without its star Chadwick Boseman. Boseman died of colon cancer at age 43 … focusing attention on what experts call a continuing, and alarming health trend.

Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH Oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, says “We have been seeing a steady uptick in the rates of this colon cancer in young people.”

Doctor Ng says the rate of this cancer for men and women under 50 has been increasing two percent per year since the mid-1990s.

“If this trend continues, modeling studies estimate that colorectal cancer will become the leading cause of cancer death in young people under the age of 50 by the year 2030.”

Doctor Ng says prevention is key for all adults … no smoking, limit alcohol, limit red meat, maintain a healthy body weight, and exercise.

It’s also important to know the signs of colorectal cancer: blood in the stool, a change in bathroom habits, unexpected weight loss, fatigue or shortness of breath and abdominal pain. These are non-specific, and may be easy to miss or ignore, but …

Doctor Ng says, “If there really is a persistent symptom that is not resolving, further attention should be paid to it.”

Doctor Ng says the recommended age for a baseline colonoscopy has been lowered from 50 to 45. She also says, for some, other screening methods might also be a good option …those include home stool-based tests that check for DNA changes. There’s also a test that only examines the left side of the colon, and virtual colonoscopy which uses a cat scan to image the colon. Dr. Ng says it’s important to know that if any of those tests come back abnormal, patients would need to have a follow up colonoscopy anyway.

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