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      Colon Cancer Increasing in Young Adults

      Over the last 20 years, screening colonoscopy has decreased the rates of new colon cancer by 30%. In other words, that means 30% fewer patients are getting colon cancer compared to 20 years ago. But the disease is on the rise among people younger than 50.

      According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, 11% of colon cancer diagnoses and 18% of rectal cancer diagnoses occur in individuals younger than 50. Researchers are working on answers as to why this trend is happening.

      Overall, colorectal cancer is the third-most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women. Increased screening through tests such as colonoscopy has decreased the overall diagnosis and death rates for colorectal cancer, which is why more attention is being paid to the increase in younger people developing the disease.

      When Should Screening Start?

      Screening for colon cancer typically begins at age 50, age 45 for African Americans or sooner if you have a family history.

      Last year, the American Cancer Society recommended that all average-risk individuals be screened for colon cancer starting at age 45 (in part because of the rise in younger-onset cases). More research is needed before this becomes the standard of care for several reasons: to avoid unnecessary tests and costs, and to change insurance coverage to cover screening at a younger age so individuals aren’t burdened with increased out-of-pocket medical costs.

      Your insurance company may still cover a colonoscopy if you have a family history of polyps or colon cancer. If an immediate family member (parent or sibling) has had colon cancer or polyps, your risk is higher, and screening may be recommended as early as age 40 or 10 years before the family member’s diagnosis was made.

      While family history does help guide us, most colon cancer patients do NOT have a family history or a genetic connection to the disease. Symptoms and other risk factors (such as having inflammatory bowel disease) are also important factors.

      What are the Symptoms?

      We recognize that digestive symptoms can make for uncomfortable, awkward discussions, but they can be signs of more serious issues.

      Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

      1. A change in bowel habits.
      2. Abdominal discomfort.
      3. Rectal bleeding.
      4. Weakness or fatigue.

      These issues can be related to other health issues – an occasional change in bowel habits is normal, for example. But if these symptoms last for more than just a few weeks or concern you in any way, talk to your doctor.

      You can call us anytime at 815-397-7340,for more information. Referrals are often not needed.