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Colon cancer rates dropping, but not among young adults

Colon Cancer Screening
Posted at 12:48 PM, Mar 06, 2023

A new study published by the American Cancer Societyhas found a small drop in overall colon cancer rates. Although the news seems to be promising, the American Cancer Society noted an increase in cases among Americans under age 55.

The American Cancer Society said there has been a 3-4% annual drop since 2000 in overall colon cancer cases. But among those under age 55, rates have increased 1-2% annually since the mid-90s.

Dr. Mark Hanna, an assistant clinical professor at City of Hope National Medical Center, said the patients he is seeing are trending younger.

"In my practice, there's an increasing number of patients who are younger than me. I'm 38 years old and I have, I mean, I would have never imagined that I would have patients who are younger than me and I'm treating them for colorectal cancer," Hanna said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends colon cancer screenings begin at age 45. Getting people that young to get screened remains a challenge.

"I kind of went to the doctor on and off for 11 months before I was finally diagnosed through a chest X-ray because I had a cough that wouldn't go away," said Kim Newcomer, a stage four colon cancer survivor.

Newcomer turns 50 this month after surviving a bout with colon cancer.

"No one told me that I would even have the possibility of losing sexual function, or I'll lose the feeling in my hands and feet from all the radiation treatments," Newcomer said.

There are some red flags to look for, doctors say.

"Progressive constipation, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, that is, you know, persistent or change in bowel habits that lasts for three or more months," Hanna said.

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.