Health & Science

New Colorectal Cancer Findings Show Younger, More Advanced Diagnoses

The new data is fueling the efforts of Chicago-area survivors who want to get the message out that screenings can make a difference.

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New information just released from the American Cancer Society found three in five people are now being diagnosed with advanced-stage colorectal cancer.

“It wasn't that long ago that only 50% of all colorectal cancer showed up as being advanced. And now it's nearly two thirds of them are showing up to be advanced,” said Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer at the American Cancer Society.

The organizations also found one in five people diagnosed are younger than 55 years old. Ten years ago, that number was one in 10.

“We're also seeing some trends where more younger Black men are being diagnosed with colon cancer as well,” Dr. Kamal said.

That’s frustrating news for Candace Henley to hear.

For those of us who've been advocating for this long, it’s angering us, because people have been dying from this unnecessarily,” Henley said.

Henley was diagnosed with colon cancer 20 year ago, at the age of 35.

“No one even thought to even test me for colon cancer took six months,” Henley said.

She founded The Blue Hat Foundation to raise awareness about colorectal cancer. The foundation is once again teaming up with the Big Ten this year for “Screening Madness,” a social media campaign tied with March Madness and colorectal cancer awareness month.

“We need to start advocating and reaching our younger people instead of waiting, you know, until they're a screening age,” Henley said.

The American Cancer Society recommends a colonoscopy at age 45 for people at average risk, but if you have a family history of cancer, you should check with your doctor about getting screened earlier.

“What I would say for people under the age of 45 is remember that colon cancer can run in families and particularly can run in families where the primary cancer is not colon cancer,” Dr. Kamal said. “I think knowing someone's individual risk, having genetic counseling, talk to their doctors about it and that may, in fact, move them where they start colonoscopy at 35 or 40, instead of 45.”

David Blackmon, from Chicago, went in for his first colonoscopy at age 51 and got stunning news: stage one colon cancer. Now in remission, the husband and father of two has a new mission in life.

“I'm also using this as a ministry, basically to talk to other people about getting tested because I caught mine early and it's curable,” Blackmon said. “Go and get tested. That's what's important. And a lot of people just go without and sometimes it's too late.”

Among the American Cancer Society’s findings, there is good news. Many older Americans are getting their colonoscopies and preventing cancer by removing polyps. Doctors are urging people in the 45-to-55 age group to do the same.

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