colorectal cancer rates rising among young people are physicians making the right diagnoses

According to the majority of medical guidelines, both men and women should begin undergoing preventative screening for colorectal cancer starting at the age of 50. This is largely because the disease is historically associated with older populations. However, recent articles have suggested that an increasing number of younger people — particularly those in their 40s — are developing colorectal cancer and, even worse, that the condition is going undiagnosed by many physicians who are failing to run the necessary tests.

Interestingly, statistics from the American Cancer Society show that the overall rates of colorectal cancer have been falling by roughly three percent per year for men and 2.3 percent per year for women. Presumably, this is due to better testing/screening, greater vigilance by physicians to screen older patients and enhanced surgical techniques allowing easier removal of pre-cancerous polyps on the colon wall.

However, these same statistics also show that from 1998 to 2007, the rate of colorectal cancer in people between the ages of 18 and 49 increased by 2.1 percent.

While medical professionals are uncertain as to why the cancer rate is increasing among the younger population, they theorize that poor eating habits, environmental factors, lack of exercise/obesity and genetics may be playing a role.

Nevertheless, many doctors are attributing some of the telltale signs of colorectal cancer — vomiting, cramping, extreme fatigue, diarrhea, and iron deficiency — to other medical conditions, a move that can have extremely severe consequences.

Here, these initial misdiagnoses of colorectal cancer can allow it to spread/develop into a more advanced stage, complicating treatment, increasing expenses and needlessly endangering lives.

“Mad is not a strong enough word for how I felt,” said one woman who was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer after multiple misdiagnoses. “I felt robbed. I felt like it was unfair.”

More physicians are now recognizing the problem and calling for better education in the medical community on the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer so that the correct young people may screened for the disease. Unfortunately, this awakening comes too late for the hundreds or thousands of patients who have suffered and died because physicians assumed they were “too young” to have colon cancer and therefore failed to provide adequate diagnostic care.

Remember, if you or a loved one is suffering from painful treatments for colon or rectal cancer, or if you have a loved one who has passed away because of the condition, it is possible that your doctor misdiagnosed the condition or made some other crucial medical error. In these situations, you can seek justice.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “More younger people getting colorectal cancer,” Andrea K. Walker, July 29, 2012

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