(Chemotherapy Advisor) – March 19th starts National Cancer Awareness month, and there is already some early news out of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Oncologists and surgeons there report that have been treating more and more patients under age 50 with colorectal cancer. Even with the overall number of cases of colorectal cancer dropping significantly over the last decade, the number of cases has increased by 2% every year since 1992 in persons under age 50 years.

“We’re seeing a growing trend of more colorectal cancer patients under 50, some even under 40,” said Scott D. Goldstein, MD, Director of the Division of Colorectal Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “Screening isn’t recommended until age 50, so many of these cases aren’t caught early. The problem is the younger they are, the more likely they are to ignore symptoms of more advanced stages of the disease. Who thinks they have colon cancer at 40, 35, or even 25?”

The news release described several young patients diagnosed with the disease. In one case, a patient of Dr. Goldstein was diagnosed with rectal cancer at the age of 25, after experiencing severe stomach cramps and constipation for six months prior to visiting her doctor. A colonoscopy revealed that this patient had stage 3 cancer, and she endured months of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor, followed by colon resection to remove it. That was six years ago. Since then, the cancer spread to her liver and lungs, and she had chemotherapy and surgical intervention one year ago. She continues fighting her cancer battle to this day.

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As with any cancer, early detection of colorectal cancer is the key to increasing survival rates.