50,000 people will die from colorectal cancer in 2020. 11% of those patients will be under the age of 50.
One of the biggest reasons rates are rising? Symptoms are being ignored.
Actor Chadwick Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer at just 39 years old, which unfortunately led to his death 4 years later.
In this video from Dr. O’Connor’s conversation on BlackDoctor.org with Nurse Alice Benjamin and Dr. Scott Metcalfe from Bravo’s Married to Medicine, she discusses the recent spike in younger colorectal cancer patients and possible symptoms to look out for.
Dr. Lynn O’Connor: In 2020 alone, we’re looking at about 140,000 diagnoses of colorectal cancer.
Nurse Alice Benjamin: Wow!
Dr. Lynn O’Connor: We’re looking at 50,000 deaths in 2020 from colorectal cancer. And of those new cases about 11% of them, of the colon cancer diagnoses, are going to be in people who have young onset.
We’ve seen a significant uptick since 1994, about a 51% increase in patients. When my patients are coming to me, simply because they’ve got rectal bleeding, they’ve got some pain, they’ve got discomfort, they’ve got constipation…those are the younger ones. Now, the older ones have really gotten the message out. My 50,60,70 year olds they’re getting screened, their numbers are coming down.
I’ll never forget the 30-year old woman who came to me 3 weeks before she was supposed to get married and she just wanted her hemorrhoids taken care of. Those hemorrhoids turned out to be aggressively advanced rectal cancer.
My patients are coming to me with rectal bleeding, they’re coming to me with constipation, they’re coming to me with some weight loss. Sometimes anemia. Change in their bowel habits – they’re just not going as much as they normally do. And the thing is, you don’t have to go every single day but what you need to know is your normal. When you change and deviate from your normal that’s when that’s a problem. People are coming to me and saying their bowel habits have changed and that means they’re not moving as normally, they have smaller stools, they’re thinner stools like Dr. Metcalfe talked about. Those are the issues you really don’t want to ignore.
And the problem is, when you’re thinking about younger patients, because they’re so young, we’re really quick to just say, “Oh, it’s just a hemorrhoid,” “Oh, it’s just indigestion,” “Oh, you’re just overworked and you’re tired. That’s why you’re fatigued.” And women, sometimes they write off their anemia and their fatigue because they have heavy menstrual cycles.
So it’s important to delve into what’s going on with those patients, talk about their family history and don’t just diagnose a hemorrhoid and leave it at that.