Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and studies are finding a rise in younger adults in their 30s and 40s.
At Bon Secours St. Francis, Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgeon Jessica Gonzalez Hernandez has noticed that trend herself within the past 10 years.
“I’ve seen patients at 28 year-old with metastatic colon cancer,“ she says. “We really don’t know why. It’s probably because our lifestyle after 1990 has not been as healthy as the patients who were born in 1950.“
It’s happening nationwide, and in May 2018, The American Cancer Society changed the age recommendation for colonoscopies from age 50 to 45 for those of average risk.
“If you are high risk for colon cancer because you have a family history, you should have a colonoscopy 10 years prior to the age your family member was diagnosed, or age 40. Whatever comes first,” Gonzalez Hernandez says.
She explains that catching colorectal cancer in its earliest stages through screening is key, and keeping an eye out for symptoms of weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, changes in your bowel movement and pencil-like stools.
Researchers found that those born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer than people born around 1950, when risk was at its lowest.
One of the most common reasons for putting off getting a routine colonoscopy is thinking it will be painful.
“Most colonoscopies nowadays are done with sedation and patients don’t feel anything. They don’t even know that it’s happening,” Gonzalez Hernandez says.
To lower your risk, she recommends exercising more, following a high fiber diet, avoiding high animal fat, and refraining from smoking.“
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