Colon cancer statistics can be pretty depressing. Did you know that 1 out of every 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer at some point in life? Or that colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States? According to Fight Colorectal Cancer, it is expected that there will be 135,430 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in 2017. But these statistics take on a whole new reality when colon cancer affects you or someone you love.
Last year, one of my friends was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her name is Anouk, and she is a young mom with two children. She’s in her late 30s, so her diagnosis came as a shock to her friends and family. Anouk is tall, slender and has always been healthy and active. How could she possibly have colon cancer? “She’s way too young for this,” I thought to myself. It didn’t add up. Good genetics, younger age, healthy eating and an active lifestyle should be enough to prevent cancer, right?
It doesn’t seem right and it doesn’t seem fair, but colon cancer among the younger generation is steadily increasing. The American Cancer Society determined that about 11,000 individuals in their 40s were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013, and 4,000 individuals were under the age of 40. What is so frustrating is that no one knows why (Source: Fox 4 News).
One possible explanation for the increase in young-onset colon cancer incidence is that most cases of colon cancer do not have symptoms in the early stages. For those who are young and relatively healthy, their overall wellness may mask initial symptoms. When symptoms do appear, young people are often uninformed about the warning signs of colon cancer such as rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia. The medical community is getting better at educating men and women who are 50 years and above on the warning signs of colon cancer, but younger individuals need to be in-the-know as well. Because of the low index of suspicion, colon cancer in younger patients is more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, which makes treatment more difficult.
The best way to prevent colon cancer at any age is to know your individual risk for colon cancer. If you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, you should be screened for colon cancer before the age of 50 (or before the age of 45 if you are African American). It is also important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer and that you make an appointment with your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Early detection means early treatment, and colon cancer is over 95 percent treatable when it is discovered in the early stages.
Have you or a loved one been affected by young-onset colon cancer? If so, we would like to ask you to share your story. Stop Colon Cancer Now has a page that is dedicated to Testimonials about colonoscopies, stories from colon cancer survivors, and In Honor Of stories. The power of a personal story can change lives, so consider sharing yours today.