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
— Constipation
— Unexplained weight loss

Comments (12)
  1. I just listened to your report on the 5:00 news regarding colon cancer in young people. I have to say I was appalled at your lack of seriousness for this deadly disease. Your inability to discuss the symptoms because ” it was dinner time and it was “bathroom” talk is just unacceptable. Susan Elizabeth, I have worked in the health care field for over 45 years and seen more death and disability than one person should but I have also seen amazing things i.e. complete cures for people who have been diagnosed early and totally understand the symptoms that need to be reported. You have done a disservice to your viewers but I know you are a good reporter with a heart so please if you do this segment again ( and you should) do not ever be afraid to discuss symptoms that could save someones life.
    Susan Becker

    1. There also are less invasive tests that would show the presence of blood in stool such as colorguard. These do not require colon cleansing materials. However if these tests come up positive, colonoscopies are a must since they can remove polyps, tumors, and run biopsies. I had a routine fecal occult test done years ago and had to undergo a colonoscopy and now have them done on a routine basis. I am in my sixties.

  2. I agree with Susan Harmon Becker’s comments. It is precisely the reticence about saying the words out loud that leads to people ignoring symptoms because it is embarrassing to discuss. And it is even more embarrassing to get tested. Shame on you. I expect better and the public deserves better.

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