38 and diagnosed with colon cancer: ‘I’m just going to go live!’
There is a concerning rise in colorectal cancer among U.S. adults younger than 55 years old. Now 1 in 5 new colon cancer cases are among those in their early 50s or younger, according to American Cancer Society’s latest colorectal cancer report. Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center patient Chase Dunlop knows all too well. Dunlop was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2021 at just 38 years old.
Dunlop went to a primary care doctor after noticing symptoms such as seeing blood when using the restroom. He was then referred to and got a same-day appointment with Dr. Joaquin Estrada, colon and rectal surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic in Chicago, where he was told he needed to get a colonoscopy.
After the colonoscopy, Dr. Estrada delivered the news to Dunlop that they found a 1.5 inch mass on his lower colon. After going back for some more blood work and a CT scan, he had to wait for the results.
“The scariest and most relieving thing that has ever been said to me was in one sentence. It was: ‘We got the results back and you have low-grade colon cancer, but it’s curable,’” Dunlop says.
He had faith and trust that everything would be fine since the team found the mass early due to having symptoms that usually don’t appear until later stages of the cancer. He also did not have a family history of colon cancer and his age fell below the typical screening recommendation.
The early diagnosis meant he didn’t have to go through radiation or chemotherapy. Instead, he needed surgery to have the mass removed.
After his surgery, Dunlop took his health even more seriously, got in great shape and learned how to eat clean. He dropped 20-25 pounds, ate fiber and drank lots of water.
Dunlop has always been an active guy – enjoying boxing, running, CrossFit and Jiu-Jitsu. A big part of his support and recovery was his Jiu-Jitsu group in Chicago. By never giving up and staying focused on his health and fitness he recently got promoted to a blue belt – no easy feat. He says he now feels fully recovered and has a new perspective on life.
“When you are given something scary like cancer you change up some things in your life,” he says.
Dunlop now works remote and travels the country with his two dogs. Most recently he was in the Smoky Mountains hiking on the weekends and relaxing at a beach house in the Carolinas.
“I turn 40 in January and now I just want to travel the country, see the sites and live in cool places,” says Dunlop. “I’m just going to go live.”
He now encourages everyone to watch for symptoms, have a primary care doctor and to see a specialist if needed.
Want to learn more about your risk for colorectal cancer? Take a free online quiz here.