Colon cancer on the rise in young people

4 Your Health
Data pix.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Andrea Bauer is a young energetic woman who has faced down a killer.

In 2016 she became part of the new dangerous trend in colon cancer cases: more and more younger people are coming down with the disease.

She noticed blood in her stool in 2016 and pushed her doctors to perform a colonoscopy on her, despite a lack of insurance coverage for the procedure.

That test saved her life.

“He found the tumor and it was a smaller tumor,” says Bauer. “The thought was, it was in the beginning stages. Dr Maun did my surgery and removed 10 inches of my sigmoid colon and all of the lymph nodes around it and three came back as cancerous.”

Dr. Dipen Maun is a colorectal surgeon at Franciscan Health and performed Andrea’s surgery.

“Thank God she was pushy and an advocate for herself, which is why she is here today and can tell her story,” says Dr Maun.

145,000 adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Most are over the age of 50.

Those at higher risk for the disease are African Americans, patients with a history of polyps, those with a family history, those eating a low fiber diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and those who are obese and have diabetes. 

But now, as Andrea shows, there are younger and younger colon cancer patients. The American Cancer Society says there’s been a 50 percent increase in colorectal cancer among those under the age of 50 since 1994.

That adds up to about 16,000 people younger than 50 being diagnosed every year.

It’s believed heredity may play a part. So may a lack of exercise, diets high in red meat, exposure to alcohol and smoking.

But there no clear linkage quite yet.

“That is without a doubt, the hottest topic, the age groups for colon cancer,” says Dr Maun. “Of all the age groups across the population the only age group that is seeing an increase are those under the age of 50.”

Andrea’s ordeal has led her to be an advocate for colon cancer awareness. She’s pushing for new guidelines for colonoscopies to start at age 45.

“Nobody knows your body but you and everybody’s body is different and if you know something is wrong, if something is telling you … you search until you get an answer,” says Bauer.

Dr. Maun is in complete agreement.

“The government and all of our societies, we follow has arbitrarily drawn the line at age 50 when screenings should start. We feel that line is a little too far in the sand. And we need to move it down a little bit to 45 or possibly even 40.”

For more on Colorectal cancer click here.

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