Home Health Think You’re Too Young to Worry about Colorectal Cancer?

Think You’re Too Young to Worry about Colorectal Cancer?

Advocates are using hashtags like #NeverTooYoung to draw the attention of younger patients who could be at risk.

by Tyler Procyk
Three hospital beds laid out in a row in a room surrounded by medical equipment.
Doctors are recommending colonoscopies based on rising numbers of patients with colorectal cancer. (Source:@Pixabay via Pexels)

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Some doctors are calling for early colonoscopy screening for their patients, pointing to the fact that colorectal cancer was the fourth-highest diagnosed cancer in Ontario in 2023.

The current age recommendation to get a colonoscopy is around 50-years-old depending on individual medical history. Some doctors are hoping to see that age recommendation lowered by five to ten years, in an attempt to catch the cancer before it’s too late.

“I don’t know whether it’s because younger people may sometimes wait a little bit longer to seek medical attention, like in all of us when you’re sort of young and healthy you think you know, nothing can really be wrong,” said Dr. Kumaresan Yogeswaran, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Markham, Ont. “Unfortunately, maybe by the time you seek medical attention, it’s perhaps a little bit far gone.”

According to a study of colorectal cancer patients completed in 2020, researchers found that of the 40 patients they included aged 19 to 45, the median survival time was just 16 months.

Barry Stein is the president and CEO of Colorectal Cancer Canada, he was diagnosed with cancer at 40-years-old. Stein had to get two colonoscopies as his doctor didn’t originally believe what he was seeing was accurate considering his age.

The colonoscopy can be very uncomfortable for some due to the tedious preparation involved and getting past the uncomfortable part for the results is something that many just have to accept.

“It’s worth it because on the one hand I had 13 surgeries my whole family was upended. I came very close to being dead several times, you know, it’s a small amount to go through,” said Stein.

Colleen Young is the online community director for Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical group, who helps facilitate chat rooms for patients to share their experiences with cancer. She says that getting the message out there on the importance of these cancer screenings is something that public health needs to work on.

“Young people, you know, at an age where you’re thinking of living life it’s hard to think about preventing death,” said Young.

She cited using social media like Instagram as a much more effective way to reach these audiences.

“Whether we truly will be picking up more cancers early and making a difference I guess we’ve yet to be seen, but I think as a precautionary measure that might be a better place to start,” said Dr. Yogeswaran.

Dr. Yogeswaran said although not all young patients are dealing with aggressive forms of cancer there has been a slight increase in the aggressiveness of the cancer in younger people compared to the average patient in other demographics.

Stein referenced the hashtag #NeverTooYoung and save-butts.ca as different ways they are trying to spread awareness on colorectal cancer.

If the provinces decide to lower the recommended age for colonoscopies, many people are going to be left with a big decision to make. Young said that relying on some of these chatrooms with others’ lived experiences could prove to be a very helpful tool to ease the nerves of those wary about the procedure.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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