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Colorectal Cancer Commonly Misdiagnosed In Younger Patients

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Patients are likely to get treated for different conditions before they get a correct diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Symptoms resemble that of other conditions, which is why the cancer is often in the advanced stages once detected.  ( University of California Los Angeles )

Younger adults with advanced colorectal cancer are more likely to get a misdiagnosis on their initial appointment with a doctor.

The sharp rise in the number of patients below age 50 with stage 3 or 4 colorectal cancer is attributed to clinical misdiagnosis. Yet, the American Association for Cancer Research said this trend is not popular among healthcare providers.

Complex Disease

Colorectal cancer can be difficult to diagnose since it presents symptoms that may be related to other conditions. Doctors often associate constipation, fatigue, and weight loss to hemorrhoids or inflammatory bowel syndrome.

A study by Colorectal Cancer Alliance or CCA showed that 71 percent of patients below age 50 have stage 3 or 4 colorectal cancer. Patients over the age of 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with stage 1 or 2 cancers.

Of the 1,195 respondents, 63 percent said they waited three to 12 months before they get screened for colorectal cancer. Many of these patients had to see two to four physicians before they were given an accurate diagnosis.

"Young people need to be aware that colorectal cancer can happen at any age and it is not a disease of old people," said lead author and director of CCA Ronit Yarden. "Everybody should listen to their body and, if it doesn't feel right, go to the doctor to be tested."

The results of the study were not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Screening Made Easy

A new at-home screening test showed acceptable results in identifying markers for possible colorectal cancer. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) detects blood in a person's stool that is invisible to the naked eye. Blood in stools may signal the formation of colon polyps.

FIT detected 75 to 80 percent of colorectal cancer out of all the individuals who tested for the disease. Lead author Dr. Thomas Imperiale said that if done yearly, FIT is a good alternative to colonoscopy for people with a moderate risk of colorectal cancer.

Details of the FIT study are available in the Feb. 26 edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.

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