A new study from the American Cancer Society has warned that more Gen Xers and millenials are getting colorectal cancer.
While the rates of colon and rectal cancers are rising sharply among young and middle-aged Americans, they appear to be on a downward trend among adults ages 55 and above.
From the mid-1980s to 2013, colon cancer incidence climbed 1 to 2 percent annually for U.S. adults in their 20s and 30s, while it increased more slowly — or by 0.5 to 1 percent annually — for those 40 to 54 years old. Rectal cancer rates, on the other hand, rose at about 3 percent every year in those who are in their 20s and 30s, and 2 percent for those aged 40 to 54.
Spotting The Symptoms
Dr. Nancy You, surgical oncology professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center, told SELF that they are seeing the same alarming trend. The rising number of cancers are likely not due to increasing detection since this age group does not typically undergo screening such as colonoscopies, she explained.
So what signs and symptoms should one be on the lookout for? Similar to those present in the elderly, only they are likely to be missed because younger people tend to dismiss the idea of cancer when the symptoms start to manifest, Dr. Debra A. Vachon of Mercy Medical Hospital warned.
According to the ACS, colorectal cancer might not lead to symptoms immediately. But once it does, the symptoms include a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation lasting for more than a couple of days; the lack of feeling of relief after a bowel movement; rectal bleeding; blood in the stool, cramping or abdominal pain, fatigue and weakness, and unintended weight loss.
At times, the first sign is a blood test showing low red blood cell count. These cancers can bleed into the digestive tract, and over time the blood loss can progress and lead to anemia.
Most of these symptoms are usually associated with conditions such as hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. But it pays to see the doctor if any of the problems persists, the ACS recommended.
‘Very, Very Subtle’ Signs At Work
The risks for developing colorectal cancer comprise a family history of the disease or other cancers, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, high red meat intake, diabetes, alcohol and smoking, and previous exposure to abdominal radiation, oncologist Dr. Gautam Kale told Fox8.
You reminded that colorectal cancer can be “very, very subtle,” which is why a greater number of patients diagnosed under age 50 are already in stage 3 or 4 because they are not on the radar. Low energy and weight loss are some not-so-obvious signs.
Overall prognosis for younger individuals is also the same as in their older counterparts, even though they can pursue more aggressive treatments or surgeries.
“The later the stage, the poorer the prognosis,” said gastroenterology expert Dr. Mark Friedman.
There’s no need for panic, experts said, as it could be a simple case of anal fissure (a tear present in the anal canal’s lining) or hemorrhoids. But if the doctor fails to figure out what is wrong, a colonoscopy may be necessary.