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The Surprising Truth About Youth and Colorectal Cancer

March 27, 2017 at midnight

The latest study by World Cancer Research Fund International states that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. This statistic surprised me as I researched the topic ahead of my own colonoscopy. Despite my doctor's encouragement, I was actually too young to be subjecting myself to this kind of invasive procedure, wasn't I? Well, it turns out that much of what I thought about colorectal cancer is wrong.

Colorectal Cancer is Not an Old-Folk’s Problem

One of the first surprising facts I discovered is that colorectal cancer isn't limited to baby boomers and seniors. It also affects young adults like me. Since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that colorectal screening should start at age fifty, I figured I was safe; I’m not even close to that age. Besides, I was in no mood for the discomfort of either the preparation or the procedure itself. Still, what if my doctor had discovered something he wasn't telling me about?

My research continued.

Colorectal Cancer Survival Rates

I was somewhat relieved by the abundance of research on colorectal survival rates. According to the Cleveland Clinic, survival rates for colorectal cancer are ninety-three percent when it's detected in the early stages — so surely the fact that I'm young would contribute to an even more positive prognosis?

Not so, unfortunately. While the American Cancer Society states that cancer is not common in young adults, it turns out that young adults with colorectal cancer only have a five-year survival rate of 65%. I was shocked; the statistic was far below the survival rates reported for the broader population. What's even more alarming is that the American Cancer Society predicts the young adult segment will see a rise in colon cancer diagnosis to the tune of 90% and 124.2% for rectal cancer diagnosis by 2030.

Screening in Young Adults

Suddenly, I was feeling a lot happier about my scheduled colonoscopy. The only way to detect colorectal cancer is through screening, and beating it starts with early detection. Once it spreads you're facing a much bigger problem, so it's far better to be safe than sorry. It's also worth keeping in mind that young adults can have a high-risk profile for colorectal cancer. Things like age, race and family history can increase the potential for this type of cancer, and young adults who fit the profile should insist on the screening.

Staying Healthy and Prevention

Although there are no clear causes of colorectal cancer, maintaining a low-fat and high-fiber diet can help prevent it. The Mayo Clinic states that our Western diet, which is, in fact, high-fat and low-fiber, is a common thread among groups that have been studied.

As for me, my colonoscopy revealed no signs of pre-cancer, cancer, or polyps. While unpleasant, the screening was well worth it because the results dispelled the concerns I had. Nevertheless, it's important to realize that complacency can kill you. Get yourself checked out and preferably, long before it's too late.


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