MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new study shows colon cancer rates are down overall, but dramatically increasing in younger adults.
The study shows one-third of rectal cancer patients are under the age of 55. Kirsten Freiborg, a 27-year-old from New Hope, is one of them, and she was recently featured in a New York Times story.
“My doctors, they were all shocked,” she said. “Even my surgeon said, ‘You are the youngest patient I’ve had with colon cancer.'”
A month before her college graduation, she got the news at age 22.
“I had blood in my stool, and that was the main symptom,” she said. “I really had no other symptoms.”
After two years of doctor visits, a gastroenterologist finally ordered a flexible sigmoidoscopy, or “flex stig” test.
The results showed Freiborg was stage 3C, uncommon but not unheard of for young adults, according to University of Minnesota professor of medicine, Dr. Ed Greeno.
“That’s one thing that makes cancer worse in young people,” he said. “We don’t worry about them getting cancer much. They get symptoms and they ignore them…doctors ignore them.”
While diet could be a factor, it’s not clear why healthy eaters like Freiborg are being diagnosed with cancer.
The new study recommends that doctors consider lowering the recommended age for colonoscopy.
Meanwhile, doctors says numbers are likely going down in older people because of the recommended screenings.
Below are the symptoms of colon cancer:
— Blood in stool
— Unexplained weight loss