CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – A study released Tuesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says young adults are increasingly at risk for colon cancer. The new information comes just as Colon Cancer Awareness Month beings in March.
The study revealed that during the late 1970s and early 1980s, colon cancer incidence rates were declining in age groups younger than age 50 years and increasing in those age 50 years and older. Conversely, from the mid-1980s through 2013, rates declined in adults age 55 years and older, while increasing by 2.4 percent per year in adults age 20–29 years and by 1 percent per year in adults age 30– 39 years (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).
Amy Herrmann of Canfield has been active and healthy, but in 2015 — when she was just 43 years old — she was diagnosed with colon cancer. It started with gastrointestinal problems and the symptoms got increasingly worse every day.
“This was different. I felt internally distended. I looked in the mirror and I looked the same, but internally I felt differently,” Herrmann said.
A visit to her doctor showed her vital signs were normal and she was told she probably needed to drink more water and get more fiber. But just to be safe, her doctor did a rectal exam. During the exam the doctor went silent – he found a tumor.
“I said, ‘I have cancer, don’t I?’ He said, ‘Yes, I think you do,’” Herrmann recalled.
Further testing confirmed that Herrmann had stage two colon cancer. Her doctor referred her to Dr. Costedio at the Cleveland Clinic.
Costedio said anyone can get colon cancer and they are seeing more cases in younger adults.
“Younger adults are getting colon and rectal cancer as early as 20s and up through 50s,” Costedio said.
Herrmann had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in July 2015. She was in the hospital for five says. Four years after the surgery, she has to deal with an ileostomy bag and has been hospitalized twice for infection.
Herrmann said her friends and family were key to helping her stay positive.
“More than physical process, there is an emotional component to all of this. You have to have a positive attitude because if you don’t, you’re six steps back already,” Herrmann said.
It’s been more than a year since Herrmann had surgery. Aside from dietary changes, she says she’s lucky to live a pretty normal life. She knows things could have been worse had she ignored how she was feeling. That is why she is telling people to trust their gut.
“Listen to your body. Don’t be afraid because you can’t run from the truth. What good would it have done to ignore my symptoms,” Herrmann said.
Costedio’s advice is to be your own advocate. Speak up if something is not working of if you feel like you want to delve further into your symptoms.
“If you go to the physician and they don’t recommend a colonoscopy and you don’t get better with the things they say, then you’ve got to go back,” Costedio said.
Herrmann’s battle with cancer may not be over. In July, doctors found a precancerous polyp during her colonoscopy. She is getting retested in June.
“I something comes up, we tackle it. But if not, I am not going to worry about what I don’t know,” Herrmann said.
The Cleveland Clinic offers a free colon cancer risk assessment on its website with personalized screening recommendations.