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AACR 2019: Misdiagnosis, Advanced Disease Common in Young-Onset Colon Cancer

By: Sarah Campen, PharmD
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The majority of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer before the age of 50 may be initially misdiagnosed, increasing the likelihood of diagnosis at a more advanced stage. These findings are from a survey conducted by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, a patient advocacy organization with a mission to raise awareness for colorectal screening and prevention. The results were presented during a media preview of the 2019 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting (Abstract 3347/13) in Atlanta.

“Despite declining incidence in older adults, there has been a rapid and alarming rise in colorectal cancer incidence among young adults in recent decades,” stated lead author Ronit Yarden, PhD, MHSA, Director of Medical Affairs at the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Washington, DC. “There is little awareness of this trend among health-care providers.”

The survey, administered over social media, was completed by 1,195 young-onset patients and survivors. The majority of participants (57%) were diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 49, one-third were diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 39 (33%), and the remainder (10%) were diagnosed before the age of 30.

Most of the young-onset patients and survivors (71%) were diagnosed at stage III or IV, subjecting them to aggressive therapies and a substantial decrease in quality of life. Many patients (63%) waited 3 to 12 months before visiting their doctor. Some medical providers initially misdiagnosed their patients with hemorrhoids or inflammatory bowel disease instead of colorectal cancer.

“Our survey indicates that medical professionals and young adults need to be aware of the increasing incidence rate of young-onset [colorectal cancer], the signs and symptoms, and the importance of timely screening when those symptoms are present,” concluded Dr. Yarden and Kim L. Newcomer, of the Never Too Young Advisory Board of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.



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