Colon cancer on the rise for younger patients
Although overall colon cancer rates are down, a new study presented at a national conference of Digestive Disease Week in San Diego shows that incidence rates in people under 50 has increased more than 11 percent in the past decade.
The researchers analyzed one million colorectal cancer cases from 2004 to 2013. While they found the number of cancers in those 50 and older was down by nearly three percent over the decade, diagnoses in younger patients were on the rise.
“We have to spread the word around the country that you should have a screening colonoscopy at age 50 – or 45 for African Americans – because that is when your risk for colon cancer increases,” says Dr. Sakhie Hussain, medical director of the Endoscopy Center at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago.
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI estimates there will be more than 134,000 new cases in 2016.
“Our findings suggest that health care providers should be more vigilant about detecting symptoms in younger patients and also should consider lowering the threshold for colonoscopy screening,” said lead researcher Dr. Elie Sutton. “We really don’t know why colon cancer is increasing in younger patients.”
Medical officials describe colon cancer as one of the most treatable cancers because the growth starts out in the colon or rectum as polyps instead of a cancerous cell.
“There is a fear when it comes to having a colonoscopy, and we have to start educating people that it is lifesaving,” says Dr. Hussain.
In addition to informing patients that colonoscopies are life-saving, Dr. Hussain also wants people to know the test is quick and painless.
“A vast majority of patients – once they have their colonoscopies – didn’t even realize how easy it would be,” says Dr. Hussain. “Many patients sleep through the entire process, and when we wake them up, the first thing they ask us is ‘when are you going to start the procedure?’ When we tell them we are done, they are completely surprised.”
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