It’s Not Just For Your Old Man: Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer Explained
In 2017, Evan White discovered he was entering a fight for his life.
The 24-year-old Texan was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of about 14%. Today, Evan is beating the odds and fighting like hell to win this battle, even after the cancer came back in 2019.
"Colorectal cancer has put an incredible strain on my body, mentally and physically, and on my relationships," says White. "But it has taught me how to live each day to its fullest."
This is tough stuff to read—we know you'd rather be scrolling mindlessly through Instagram. But it's our DUDE duty to tell you about early-age onset colorectal cancer (EAO CRC), so you can prevent it and support fellow dudes in their fight against this disease.
What Is Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer?
About 90% of colorectal cancer cases affect people over the age of 50, but the number of new cases in adults under 50 has been increasing since the mid-90s. Colorectal cancer in this age group is referred to as EAO CRC.
Since screening typically begins at age 45 or 50, many young adults are being overlooked. Fortunately, education and early screening can mitigate the risk of this preventable disease.
Can Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer Be Prevented?
Your best bet to prevent EAO CRC is to get screened if you have a family history (20-30% of all patients have a family history of CRC), show symptoms, or are of the recommended screening age. But as always, be sure to speak with your doctor first.
Daniel Bloomgarden, a stage III colon cancer survivor, was diagnosed after a routine colonoscopy at the age of 40 with no obvious symptoms. Since Daniel's grandfather had colon cancer, his doctor recommended he get screened earlier than the usual age of 50. Daniel agreed—and his decision likely saved his life.
There is no cookie-cutter answer for "When should I get screened?" since everyone is different. In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated their screening guidelines for average-risk adults to begin at age 45 rather than 50.
What To Do If You're Experiencing Symptoms
If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider immediately:
- Bloody stool
- Abdominal pain
- Big changes to your pooping pattern, like consistent diarrhea, constipation, or pencil-thin poop
- Unintentional weight loss
It's important to follow-up and have a colonoscopy if your doc recommends it. Studies note almost half of patients don't follow up on a colonoscopy when recommended, and signs and symptoms are present!
A colonoscopy may not be the most pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but it's a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Resources for the EAO CRC Community
In case you missed it, we teamed up with Fight Colorectal Cancer, a nonprofit leading the charge against CRC. Their team of survivors and advocates have some handy resources for people battling CRC, their loved ones, and people who want to stay informed on the latest science.
Early-Age Onset Workgroup
Fight CRC's EAO CRC Workgroup was created in response to the rise in young adult colon and rectal cancers. Experts involved include epidemiologists, biostatisticians, oncologists, and researchers from the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. The workgroup's goal is to prioritize the research agenda and understand the best approaches towards understanding EAO CRC. You can check out their research here.
Save the Date! Fight CRC's Second-Annual EAO CRC International Symposium is happening this June. More details and registration information will be announced on March 15.
Fight CRC's free webinars are for anyone looking to get informed and involved with the EAO CRC community. Topics range from screening trends to the relationship between exercise and cancer. Head over here for more.
Fight CRC's Taboo-ty Podcast is all about confronting the "taboo" topics facing many EAO CRC survivors.
"Being a relentless champion of hope is all about being a beacon of light for others," says survivor Evan White. "No matter how deep the valleys or how dark the struggles, we will continue to inspire others, stay positive, and live our lives to the fullest. I'm involved with Fight CRC because colorectal cancer isn't just my fight, and I hope my story and my experiences will give others hope."