The four early warning signs of colon cancer in younger adults that everyone should watch out for have been revealed in a new study.
Once seen as a disease of yesteryear, surgeons are now concerned about a mysterious spike in middle-aged cases — with the number among 55-year-olds doubling since the 1990s.
In their study, doctors looked at the symptoms recorded in 5,075 people with early-onset colon cancer that struck before their 50th birthday.
They revealed four common warning signs that appeared up to two years before diagnosis: abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea and iron-deficiency anemia.
The above shows the four warning signs of early-onset colon cancer, which affects people before their 50th birthday
Dr. Yin Cao, a surgeon at Washington University in St. Louis who was involved in the study, cautioned that it’s important not to view colon cancer as “just a disease that affects the elderly.”
“We want younger adults to be aware of and act on these potentially very telling signs and symptoms,” she said.
‘[This is] especially since people under 50 are considered low-risk people and are not routinely screened for colon cancer.”
Catching the cancer early is essential because while more than 90 percent of patients survive if diagnosed at an early stage, this drops to just 13 percent if the cancer is not detected until it has spread to other organs.
Published today in the Jour journal of the National Cancer Institutethe study was based on health insurance claims submitted to IBM MarketScan Commerical Database – which includes more than 113 million Americans.
Each patient with early-stage colon cancer was matched with someone who didn’t have the disease.
Scientists then looked at patients’ medical reports to see if they had experienced any of the 17 symptoms associated with colon cancer.
The analysis revealed four symptoms, with nearly half of patients reporting at least one of them at least three months before diagnosis.
They also found that the risk of being diagnosed with colon cancer increased depending on the number of symptoms patients had.
Having any of the symptoms doubled the risk of a colon cancer diagnosis.
But if you have two, it will increase 3.5 times, and if you have three or more, it will increase six times.
The four symptoms were normally ongoing, the scientists said.
Iron deficiency anemia can be diagnosed through blood tests, a pale discoloration under the inside of the lower eyelids, or unusually pale or yellow skin.
However, the list of symptoms was not exhaustive and other warning signs may also indicate an early onset of the disease, including a feeling that the bowel has not completely emptied or persistent cramping or gas.
Dr. Cao added: “Since the majority of colon cancer cases have been diagnosed at an early stage and will continue to be diagnosed after symptoms appear, it is critical to recognize these alarm signs and symptoms immediately and initiate diagnostic testing as soon as possible. to be carried out. .
“By doing this, we can diagnose the disease earlier, which in turn may reduce the need for more aggressive treatment and improve patients’ quality of life and survival.”
The graph above shows how the number of colon cancer cases has increased in adults aged 20 to 49 years. Scientists say more than 40 percent of diagnoses occur in people between the ages of 45 and 49. The graph shows the number of colon cancer cases per 100,000 people in younger adults by stages
Dr. Cassandra Fritz, a gastroenterologist who led the study, said it normally takes about three months from when someone first goes to the doctor to get a diagnosis.
But in the study, they found that some patients had symptoms for up to two years before they were checked.
Colon cancer is when cells begin to divide uncontrollably in the colon, a part of the colon, leading to the formation of growths or tumors.
If not diagnosed and treated quickly, these cells can move to other parts of the body, causing the cancer to spread.
It is estimated that approximately 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer each year.
It is also the third leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women, after about 52,000 deaths.
Scientists are sounding the alarm about colon cancer cases in young adults amid a mysterious rise in the age group.
There is also an increase in diagnoses of the late stage disease when it has spread to other parts of the body and become more difficult to treat.
It was not clear what caused the trend, but unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle are all responsible for the higher rates.
The alarm led the US Preventive Services Task Force – a major medical body – to lower the recommended age for cancer screening from 50 to 45.
The death of actor Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer in 2020 at the age of 43, who famously played the Black Panther in the blockbuster Marvel movie, drew more attention to the trend.
Dr. Rebecca Segel, senior scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, previously said: ‘We know that rates are increasing in young people.
“But it is alarming to see how quickly the entire patient population is rejuvenating, despite the shrinking numbers in the overall population.
“The trend toward more advanced disease in people of all ages is also surprising and should motivate everyone 45 and older to get screened.”