There has been an alarming rise in the incidence of colorectal cancer among people younger than age 50. By 2030, researchers predict that colorectal cancer will be the leading cause of cancer deaths in adults aged 20-49. They also estimate that the incidence of early-onset colorectal cancer will increase by 140% in the next seven years. Researchers don’t yet know why the rate is rising so rapidly. That’s why it’s vitally important for individuals in this age group to be aware of the warning signs and talk to their doctors right away about getting screened for the disease. Source: National Cancer Institute State Cancer Profile
October 31, 2015
I have cancer. Everything is going to be OK. It’s stage IV colon cancer. I have tumors on my liver and there might be some on my lungs, too, but they are small. Don’t be upset. Don’t worry. It’s all going to be OK.”
This call from our 33-year-old daughter started a colorectal cancer odyssey that ended in her tragic and unnecessary death three years later. Rachel had some of the classic symptoms of CRC: constipation/diarrhea, bloody stools, rectal bleeding and anemia. Yet because of her age, her providers failed to make a proper diagnosis. Instead, she was told she had hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and suffered from stress from her busy job. Months later when she insisted on a physical exam, another doctor found a large tumor in her colon. Scans revealed the cancer had spread to her liver and lungs meaning her disease was at stage IV.
In a 2018 survey done by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance on young onset CRC, 67% of patients reported seeing more than one doctor before being properly diagnosed. Patients between the ages of 19 and 39 reported their symptoms were not taken as seriously as were those of patients ages 40-50 and women reported that their concerns were dismissed by their doctors. Fifty-four percent of the respondents to this survey reported being misdiagnosed: 43% with hemorrhoids, 17% with anemia, 12% with irritable bowel syndrome and 11% with mental health issues. Source: Never Too Young Survey Report 2020, Colorectal Cancer Alliance
Physician-related delays (e.g., missed symptoms, initial misdiagnosis) account for between 15-50% of the early onset CRC cases. If discovered at stage I or II, the five-year survival rate of CRC is 70-90%. At stage III or IV, that number drops to 13%. Source: National Cancer Institute State Cancer Profile.
As a result of her young age, Rachel’s symptoms were not considered a harbinger of a serious, life-threatening condition. She was never asked about her family history of colon cancer which was positive. Far too many young people are finding themselves in Rachel’s position. The Live Like Rach Foundation strives to change that through education of early onset CRC and raising awareness of the significance of the symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms of CRC
- Blood in stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in bowel habits
- Persistent cramps
#LiveLikeRach | Live Like Rach Website
2018 Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Survey Report | Colon Cancer Alliance
Young Adult Colorectal Cancer | Fight Colorectal Cancer
About Colorectal Cancer | American Cancer Society
What Is Early Age Onset Colorectal Cancer? | Colon Cancer Foundation