Colon Cancer in Younger Patients on the Rise

A report announced by the American Cancer Society said that colon cancer mortality in the US is in decline. Deaths caused by cancer have been dropping steadily from 1990 to 2008. More than 23% of the value was seen among men and 15% among women. Data from the period of time covered showed that total incidences of colorectal cancer, fatal or not, have also declined. This can be attributed to the fact that cancer screening with colonoscopy starting at age 50 not only detects the existence of pre-cancerous polyps but also prompts the early removal of any polyps that may develop into cancerous cells later on in life. Contrary to this good news, however, incidences of colon cancer among adults under the age of 50 have actually increased, according to the American Cancer Society. This may be common because the younger victims do not notice any symptoms to incite colonoscopy screening before the recommended time. Treat becomes delayed and the risk of the colon cancer causing death increases.

Researchers still do not know the exact reason why colon cancer occurs. What they do know, however, is that the pre-cancerous polyps very likely start the process of cancer development.  Removal of these polyps when detected during a colonoscopy helps in the prevention of the dreaded colon cancer.

It is also believed that colon cancer is a hereditary issue.  Gene mutations passed along a family line increase the risks of colon cancer. A condition called familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP occurs when several polyps grow along the linings of the colon and the rectum. A person with FAP is at risk of developing colon cancer before he or she turns the age of 40. Hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, however, is another state of hereditary risk. It is also known as HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome. Those who have a family background of colon cancer victims should undergo genetic testing to find out if they have a harmful genetic mutation.

In addition, keeping track of risk factors is also important. There are several risk factors that indicate higher susceptibility to colon cancer, including but not limited to African-American descent, a family history of colorectal cancer, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, a high-fat, low-fiber diet, smoking, high alcohol intake, a history of radiation treatment for abdominal cancer and obesity. Those who belong to a high-risk group should see a gastroenterologist about getting screened with colonoscopy at an early age. Regular screenings with colonoscopy can definitely help in early detection and removal of pre-cancerous polyps.

For younger patients, stool tests are also another accepted method for screening, though it is by no means a thorough option as compared to the standard colonoscopy. The fecal occult blood test must be done every year. Fecal occult blood testing detects hidden blood inside the gastrointestinal tract, which may be caused by polyps inside the colon. There are several variations of fecal occult blood testing, including fecal immunochemical testing.

Lastly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still the best option to prevent cancer. High-fiber fruits and vegetables and whole grains should be included in the daily diet. Exercise to maintain a healthy weight and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol are also great ways to prevent colon cancer.

When it occurs early in life, colon cancer will not produce many noticeable symptoms but consult a doctor:

Seeing a doctor should be a top priority if the above symptoms are already present. The doctor will conduct some laboratory tests, which may include blood and stool tests. If colon cancer is a risk, he or she may also order a colonoscopy or a barium enema. To treat colon related symptoms, find a gastroenterologist in your area.