AUSTIN - Two types of cancers, typically believed to affect only the older generations, are actually affecting younger people, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society.
Combined, colon and rectal cancer affect more than 200, 000 Americans every year.
The report, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, reveals colon and rectal cancer cases are surging among GenXers and Millenials.
Mark Adams won his battle with stage three colon cancer, but only after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and spending the last year in and out of chemotherapy appointments.
"Chemotherapy is a challenge and hard," Adams said. "It's a beat down... spending months and months and months was hard."
At 48, some might think he's too young to have gone through a battle with colon cancer.
"We think it probably has to do with environmental factors," Austin Gastroenterologist Douglas Srygley, who practices at St. David's South, said. "Things like obesity, smoking, not enough fiber in the diet. "
The study shows that in the past several years, colon and rectal cancer rates rose more than 1% per year for every age group under 50. In comparison, age groups above 55 saw sustained declines year to year.
So what are some signs to look for?
"Anemia, blood in stool, change in bowel habits," Dr. Srygley said. "We recommend screening over the age of 50 or if you have a family history."
That was one of the factors for Adams.
"My Mom is a colon cancer survivor," Adams said. "Also, about a year ago, my sister who is significantly younger than me was diagnosed with colon cancer. So my brother and I both at that point knew we couldn't wait. Had I waited until I was 50 it would have been bad news."
Dr. Srygley said if caught early, both colon and rectal cancers are very curable.
Adams is happy he got help as early as he did and his family said they're so thankful for this health.
"I don't plan to have cancer ever again," Adams said.
Doctors say the five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer is about 92-percent if caught in stage one.
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