From an article by
Dr. Terri Jaggers
McLeod Digestive Center
A disturbing trend arises among young people with colorectal cancer. Although the rate is dropping for adults aged 65 and older, younger groups are showing increases.
“An American Cancer Society report highlighted an upward trend since the 1980s among adults aged 20-39 and in the 1990s among adults aged 40-56, with younger age groups experiencing the highest increase,” says McLeod Gastroenterologist Dr. Terri Jaggers. “Perhaps the most alarming part of this report involves millennial, a generation twice as likely to develop colon cancer when compared to young adults in the 1950s when the overall risk was at its lowest.”
PROBLEMS FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE
The older age group is experiencing a downward trend likely due to undergoing more regular colonoscopy screenings. In the younger age groups, two challenges remains for finding and treating colorectal cancer:
1) So far, no specific cause has been uncovered for the increase in colorectal cancer among younger people. Various theories exist, but none has been proven.
2) Colon cancer screening is not part of the normal health exam for younger people. The American Cancer Society recommends begin screening at age 45, while the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends starting at age of 50.
SCREENING FOR COLON CANCER
While colonoscopy is not a test most people look forward to undergoing, it is the gold standard and one of the few diagnostic procedures known to save lives.
Using colonoscopy, we look for polyps, which are small growths that can develop into cancer. If we remove polyps before they have a chance to develop, colon cancer is prevented.
In about 60% – 70% of patients, we find no polyps. If no polyps appear, we recommend a colonoscopy screening again in 10 years.
In 30% – 40%, we find polyps that can usually be removed during the colonoscopy. Unfortunately, when we diagnosis colorectal cancer in a patient, there’s a 10% – 20% chance it’s advanced. At this point, they may need further surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
WHEN YOUNGER PEOPLE SHOULD CONSIDER COLONONSCOPY
People who are at high risk, because of family history or because they have other health conditions that predispose them to develop colon cancer, should be screened at an earlier age.
If you have a family history of colon cancer — family members who had colon cancer before age 60 or more than two family members with colon cancer, or conditions which predispose you to the disease such as familial polyposis, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, then you should be screened at an earlier age.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, see a Gastroenterologist:
Find a Gastroenterologist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology