COLORECTAL CANCER IS NOT AN OLD PERSON’S DISEASE
Rates of colorectal cancer are rising sharply among young and middle-aged individuals, while rates continue to decline in adults aged 55 and over. Young people are often diagnosed at a later stage because they aren’t getting screened and doctors don’t necessarily suspect cancer to develop at a young age.
EARLY AGE ONSET COLORECTAL CANCER
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that those at average risk of colorectal cancer start participating in regular stool screening tests at age 50, while all people aged 75 and older be in constant communication with their doctor about screening. While these screening guidelines have worked to decrease the rate of colorectal cancer in people over 50, there has been an increased incidence in young adults. Young adults, especially those with a family history of colorectal cancer, may also be at risk for diagnosis.
As the rates of early age onset colorectal cancer continue to rise, it becomes more and more crucial to increase awareness and educate the public about the importance of early screening. If you are experiencing related signs or symptoms or have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, you may be advised to start screening before age 50. Speak to your doctor about your personal testing plan.
PREVENTING COLORECTAL CANCER AS A YOUNG ADULT
It is important to take early action to prevent colorectal cancer. While there’s no sure way to prevent cancer, there are several things you can do to help lower your risk. These include making healthy life choices like living smoke-free, limiting your alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy body weight with a nutritious diet and regular physical activity.LEARN MORE
KNOW YOUR RISK
About 30% of earlyonset colorectal cancer cases develop in individuals with a family history for the disease or who have a genetic predisposition - so do not hesitate to speak to your family about their health history today. Hereditary conditions such as Lynch Syndrome and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) increase one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. Speak to your doctor about genetic risk assessment and creating a personal testing plan.
People with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease are also at increased risk. Additionally, various lifestyle factors may be contributing to the rise of colorectal cancer in younger populations such as increasing overweight and obesity conditions, increasing diabetes rates, diets high in red meat or processed meats and low in fibre, sedentary lifestyles, smoking and a high consumption of alcohol.
While most young people won’t get colorectal cancer and their symptoms are most likely not disease-related, it is critical that young people who do have symptoms — which include rectal bleeding or a change in bowel habits — are aware of the disease and speak to their physician.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing:
- A change in bowel habits such as persisting constipation or diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
- Narrower-than-normal stools
- Constant fatigue or anemia
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss or gain
EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES
While the risk of developing cancer increases with age, young adults may also be at risk of developing early age onset colorectal cancer and are recommended to partake in early and regular preventive screening. The types of screening tests available include colonoscopy tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy tests, fecal immunochemical tests and more. Learn more about the types of screening test options available.