Youngsters and bowel cancer: the delayed diagnosis dilemma

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Rise of Bowel Cancer in Young People

Recent research tells us a worrying fact. More young people, under 50 years old, are getting bowel cancer. What’s worse, they are finding out about it later than older people.

Bowel cancer cases have almost tripled in young Australians aged 15-24.

Also, one in 10 new bowel cancer cases is happening in people under 50. Despite this, the diagnosis often comes late, when the disease is already advanced.

The New Research

Dr. Klay Lamprell from Macquarie University, Australia, led a team to study this issue. They talked to people who got bowel cancer early in life.

This is the first study looking at these people’s advice on how to handle roadblocks to diagnosis.

Dr. Lamprell’s team found that young patients visited multiple doctors over three months to five years before they were diagnosed.

Challenges in Diagnosis

Dr. Lamprell says doctors often don’t expect bowel cancer in young people. They may not suspect it even if the young patient’s symptoms are getting worse.

This is despite the fact that bowel cancer cases in 15 to 24 year olds have risen by 266 percent in the last 30 years.

Current Screening Program

Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program mails free tests every two years to Australians aged 50 to 74. This has helped reduce bowel cancer deaths by about 40 percent.

But people under 50 are not part of this program. They depend on getting help for symptoms.

Patient Experiences

Dr. Lamprell’s team looked at 273 stories from patients. These people shared their stories on bowel cancer support group websites from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Many patients felt they were not listened to. They often disagreed with their doctors on how serious their symptoms were.

Most asked other patients, health systems, and doctors to understand their struggles in getting a diagnosis.

Symptoms and Diagnostic Approaches

Dr. Lamprell says patients may not understand that doctors have a process they follow to give the best care. This includes not jumping to a cancer diagnosis right away. They first need to rule out other more common causes.

Even when young patients show clear signs of bowel cancer, like blood in stools or rectal bleeding, doctors often look for other conditions first.

Communication and Understanding

Dr. Lamprell also pointed out that time limits in doctor visits and a lack of understanding about doctors’ duties could make patients’ experiences worse.

She thinks better communication between doctors and patients could help. This could solve some of the frustrations patients have when they feel their doctors are not listening.

A Room for Improvement

Another study shows that older patients are 10 to 15 percent more likely to report positive experiences than people aged under 55. So, it seems there’s a way to improve the experiences of younger patients.

The Need for Earlier Screening

Dr. Gaston Arnolda, another researcher, says there are talks about starting screening from age 45. This could help catch more cases of bowel cancer early.

Screening is not available for under 50’s. So, doctors need to find ways to improve the experiences of symptomatic patients under 50.

For example, they could make it faster to get a colonoscopy for those with red flag symptoms.

Importance of Timely Diagnosis

A late diagnosis can mean the cancer has a chance to grow or spread. This can lower the chances of survival. Finding the cancer early greatly improves the chances of survival.

But a late diagnosis might mean aggressive surgeries and treatments. This can be tough for young people who are starting families and careers.

So, it’s very important to diagnose bowel cancer early in this fast-growing patient group.

If you care about cancer, please read studies that low-carb diet could increase overall cancer risk, and vitamin D supplements strongly reduces cancer death.

For more information about cancer, please see recent studies about new way to increase the longevity of cancer survivors, and results showing fungi causing deadly lung infections found throughout the US.

The study was published in BMJ Open Gastroenterology.

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