Colon, rectal cancers rise in young people

Posted at 9:20 AM, Mar 24, 2017
and last updated 2018-12-28 10:18:09-05

“No matter how long it’s been, or whatever, it’s emotional. I’m sorry,” says Jewel.

After five years, Jewel Covington still gets choked up talking about it.

“When he came back to tell me, he said, you already know,” says Jewel.

Jewel was just 44 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. The disease ran in her family, but her symptoms weren’t necessarily obvious. Jewel was complaining of pain on her right side.

She says, “It was a cramp. I actually thought it was a GI issue.”

Abdominal pain can be a symptom of colon cancer, along with trouble going to the bathroom, and rectal bleeding.

But often times there are no symptoms at all, which is why screening is key.

“Routine screening guidelines say after the age of 50 you should get screened. There is a recommendation for African American males that screening should be given at age 45 and if there's family history, often, we will screen patients starting at age 40,” says Dr. Jani.

Doctor Niraj Jani, Chief of Gastroenterology at GBMC, says other groups including those with genetic risk factors or syndromes could be screened even earlier.

While primary screening is a colonoscopy, there are other tests out there including the FIT Test and Cologuard.

Dr. Jani says, “These are very simple stool tests that have a high sensitivity for the detection of colon cancer or even advanced polyps."

He continues, "So these may be good initial tests for those patients who are either high risk for a procedure or those scared to get screened."

Dr. Jani says colon cancer is highly curative when found early.

But a disturbing new trend has doctors concerned; higher incidents of colon cancer in young people.

A recent study by the American Cancer Society found that colorectal cancer rates have been increasing for every generation born since 1950.

"Based on this study they predict there may be almost a ninety percent increase in the incidents of colon cancer and even more for rectal cancer for the year 2030,” says Dr. Jani.

Dr. Jani says doctors don’t know the exact reason for the increase, but some have linked it to obesity and diet.

“If this trend continues, we may, based on risk factors, need to adjust the screening age,” says Dr. Jani.

As for Jewel, she had surgery to remove the cancer and feels lucky to be sharing her story.

This year will be five years cancer free.

Jewel says, “They say if you pass the five year mark, it’s a good thing it may not come back. It’s just a blessing to be here.

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