Q: What do these celebrities have in common?
A: Sadly, they’re all part of a growing trend. Each of them was diagnosed with colon cancer in the prime of their lives. Each one seemed healthy. They didn’t have symptoms of colon cancer until it was late stage. They all had booming careers, people who loved them and bright futures. Colon cancer didn’t care how famous they were. Even though they fought heroically, colon cancer ultimately took their lives.
More and more young people are being diagnosed with colon cancer. The average age for being diagnosed with colon cancer is 68 for men and 72 for women. But colon cancer is being found more often in very young people.
What makes this trend so concerning is that most young people don’t even think about getting screened for colon cancer. And even more concerning is that young people are being diagnosed at a later stage and with more aggressive tumors.
Doctor’s started recognizing the steadily decreasing age at diagnosis years ago.They sounded the alarm.
Unfortunately, colon cancer is an embarrassing topic…no one likes to talk about blood in their stool, diarrhea, bloating or gas. Especially in public and definitely not on tv.
Fortunately it’s getting easier to talk about embarrassing topics. Thanks to some very brave celebrities, people are more aware of colon cancer’s symptoms. John Andretti, Katie Couric and Ryan Reynolds talked openly about colon cancer screening. If they can talk about it on camera, you can discuss it with your doctor.
But I’m a millennial, I’m too young to get colon cancer
Colon cancer doesn’t care how young you are. The fact is that colon cancer is being found in very young people. At more advanced stages.
Yale University recently published an article stating that people as young as 20 years old need to be aware of the signs of colon cancer!
20 years old! Let that sink in.
Doctors at Yale recommend that anyone- no matter how young (they recently diagnosed an 18 year old with colon cancer)- who has any change in bowel habits, should talk to their doctor.
Some of the symptoms to look out for:
- Abdominal discomfort or pain that happens repeatedly or doesn’t go away
- Bloating on a regular basis
- Recurrent gas
- Blood on your toilet paper or in the toilet bowl
- Changes in bowel movements (diarrhea, constipation, dark stool or very thin stools)
- Tiredness or weight loss (especially with any bowel symptoms)
- Feeling full earlier than usual when eating
If you have any of these symptoms, don’t be embarrassed. Be honest with your doctor, no matter how old- or young- you are.
Keep in mind that if you have a family history of colon cancer or risk factors, you need to be on the lookout for symptoms. You should also start getting screened with a colonoscopy earlier and more often than people with no risk factors.
Actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds turned 45 this year and filmed their screening colonoscopy procedures. Even though neither one had any symptoms (that they noticed), both had precancerous polyps removed. Finding and removing polyps before they have a chance to become cancer is the most important step in preventing colon cancer.
You can watch their experience here.
If I’m young, how can I reduce my risk of colon cancer?
The good news is that you can reduce your risk of colon cancer. The younger you start, the better.
The doctors at Yale recommend the following steps:
- Quit smoking… or better yet, don’t start!
- Limit your alcohol consumption. 2 drinks a day for men, 1 for women
- Exercise regularly
- If you’re overweight, drop a few pounds
- Eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day (about twice as much as most of us get!)
The Bottom Line:
Colon cancer is happening in younger people, at more advanced stages. Colon cancer doesn’t care if you’re young or famous or have a bright future. The way to have the best chance of a cure is to catch it early– ideally before it even turns into cancer. Know the symptoms and don’t be embarrassed to talk about it. If your doctor recommends a colonoscopy, go ahead and get checked out. Check it for yourself. Check it for your family. CheckIt4Andretti!