WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A cancer found commonly in those over age 50 is having an effect on young and middle-aged adults. Colorectal cancer rates are on the rise in this age group. But colon cancer does not have to be a death sentence.
The Indiana State Department of Health is increasing colon cancer awareness. The goal is to protect Hoosiers from a disease that is preventable.
According to researchers at the American Cancer Society, a new study shows colorectal cancer rates are on the rise in young and middle-aged adults.
“I’m a very big advocate,” Franciscan Health Nurse Heather Askren said.
She said her 18-year-old cousin found out she had colon cancer last year. Her cousin’s parents and sibling were tested to see if it was genetic.
“Luckily, they were not positive for anything,” Askren said. “But, ya know, it’s scary to think an 18-year-old’s gonna have colon cancer.”
Colon cancer may not be a topic in your everyday conversations. But West Lafayette resident Beth Snack recommends this conversation move to the top of your list with your doctor and family.
“Because many times we don’t know if there’s a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle who might have also had colon cancer,” she said.
Snack has received multiple colonoscopies since her sister had colon cancer. Close to 65 percent of Hoosiers meet recommendations for getting a colonoscopy.
“It can detect something extremely small and have it removed, and then you might not need to follow up for another five years or more,” said Askren.
During a screening, people are usually sedated. Doctors can remove precancerous growths before symptoms are noticed.
“You’ll probably only be here at our facility for three hours or so,” Askren said.
Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, diet and family history.
At age 50, doctors recommend you get a colonoscopy even if you’re not having symptoms.
“People notice a little blood in their stool or some issues with digestive track, maybe they just don’t feel well after they’re eating,” said Askren.
On average, 50 colonoscopies a week are done at Franciscan Health Lafayette East.
“It’s better to have it and know that everything’s OK, than not have it and find out later that you could have maybe prevented an even bigger issue,” Snack said.
There is no clear explanation why there is a spike for colorectal cancer in young adults. But doctors say it can be prevented by getting screened.
During the month of March would be a good time, since it’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.