Younger Americans being screened for colorectal cancer

Author: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

It’s a puzzling and potentially life-threatening issue for younger Americans being diagnosed with colorectal cancers: Cases are on the rise in people below the recommended age for screening.

There are some indications that young adults should get a colonoscopy.

Her family history laid out in front of her creates a roadmap for WINK News Consumer Reporter Andryanna Sheppard. Among the many traits passed down to her is one she hopes she did not inherit, that’s colorectal cancer.

“My great-grandma had colorectal cancer, I believe twice. That, ultimately, is what killed her. My grandma also had colorectal cancer,” Sheppard said.

Her uncle did as well. Her mother had polyps, which can lead to cancer, removed during a colonoscopy.

“I guess now is the time that I should start being proactive about my colorectal cancer family history and making sure that I don’t have anything going on with me,” Sheppard said.

Colorectal cancers used to be considered an older person’s disease.

But that’s not true today.

Cases in younger people are rising at an alarming rate.

“It is a little puzzling still. But the incidence seems to be going up by 2% per year, in people under 50,” said Dr. Lowell Hart, an oncologist and hematologist at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institutes.

Hart and the rest of the medical community aren’t exactly sure why. They believe family history plays a role.

“Family history is immediate members and direct blood relatives,” Hart said. “Obviously, that would be sister, brother, parents, grandparents.”

Based on the number of cases of colorectal cancer and polyps in her immediate family, Sheppard scheduled a colonoscopy at Lee Memorial Hospital. She is in her late twenties. Her mother had polyps removed in her late thirties.

Screening now falls into current best practices.

 “They do suggest generally screening about 10 years before the first incidence of cancer in the family,” Hart said. “So in incidence, if someone had colorectal cancer in their 40s then you might want to get screened starting ten years before that.”

The colonoscopy lasted under an hour and left Sheppard with a great sense of relief.

“They didn’t find anything, so that’s nice,” she said.

Based on her higher risk, she’s advised to return in five years.

“It’s a cancer. I don’t want to say that’s preventable, but you can screen for it.”

It’s an opportunity many of her ancestors didn’t have and one that could save her life.

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