WESTON, Fla. – Alexis Graham was in her early 30s when she was diagnosed with colon cancer, but today she considers herself fortunate.
”I am 4 years cancer free and I have to come in for a check up twice a year. At my 5-year point I only need to come in once a year,” Graham said.
The rise in colon cancer rates among younger Americans led the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force to recently recommend colonoscopy screenings begin at age 45, rather than the current age of 50.
Dr. Steven Wexner , a colorectal surgeon with the Cleveland Clinic Weston thinks screening should begin even earlier.
”And the reason is the number of patients we are seeing who are younger without a family history, without any predisposing factors that would make us think of colon cancer,” Wexner said.
Along with earlier screening, Wexner said it’s important to address possible causes of cancer in these younger patients.
”It’s multi factorial. The age is decreasing in part because of a genetic drift as the gene moves over years and decades there seems to be more of a predisposition. And some of that is environmental and dietary too,” he said.
Because colon cancer is not typically suspected in younger patients, Wexner said they are often diagnosed with advanced disease.
”They typically present with bleeding and that is ascribed to hemorrhoids or they present with abdominal issues and they’re told it’s irritable bowel syndrome,” he said.
That’s what happened to Graham and it’s why she’s urges others not to brush off any unusual changes.
”I feel like if you have symptoms, go get a colonoscopy so you can know what’s wrong and start working on it,” she said.