‘I am really worried’: Alarming new data shows more colon cancer patients are being diagnosed at later stages
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Colon cancer is treatable if caught early enough, but doctors are now seeing more cases in younger patients. The recommended age for your first colonoscopy is now 45 years old, unless you have a family history that would warrant an earlier screening.
Dr. Michelle Fillion with Novant Health says since that age was dropped, it’s taking a longer time to get people between the ages of 45 and 50 caught up, along with providers getting those patients in for a screening.
“I know there’s new thoughts about doing stool DNA tests, which are which can be helpful and augmented. But still, it’s very important to actually look at the inside of the colon and find these precancerous lesions that can be removed. So, not only is it a screening, but it’s also a therapeutic test that can address these early polyps, even before they have a chance to turn into cancer,” Dr. Fillion said.
She says for any health condition or disease it’s important to pay attention to your family history. Dr. Fillion says they’ve seen patients diagnosed in their 20s and 30s before--so it’s important to pay close attention to any unusual symptoms and get them checked right away.
“We’re seeing a lot of young people. We’re seeing more people in their late 20s, and early 30s with advanced-stage rectal cancer, and whether it’s advanced-stage lymph nodes already involved or metastatic, we’re not quite sure exactly why we’re getting this uptick. But again, the best thing we can do is [pay attention to] symptoms. So, rectal bleeding, pressure, change in the stools. Those need to be brought up and they cannot just be dismissed as hemorrhoids. It’s My concern there’s other stuff going on.”
The new data only accounts for patients through 2020 and Dr. Fillion said she knows that things worsened through the pandemic.
“That means we are not capturing people at early stages. And we’re not getting people appropriately. So, that really is bringing some alarm bells to us. I am really worried that in the next few years, as we start really looking at this data, again, we’re finding patients at a more advanced stage. And many are like ‘well we’re at a more advanced stage, what does that mean, for me?’ Now they’re talking about the risk of metastasis, risk of chemotherapy, risk of dying from the diagnosis of colon cancer are important to get screened and get screened early,” Dr. Fillion said. “The message I really want to relay is we’re just not doing as well in our area of getting people screened. And we’re having people present at a later stage. So, I just really need to draw attention, please get in to see your physician, get with a GI or colorectal surgeon and get your colonoscopy.”
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