More people under 55 are getting colon cancer

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Kasey Mattison scrolls through pictures on her phone. She never gets tired of looking at photos of her daughter Makayla.

“She’s two turning three,” Mattison chuckles. “Going through those terrible twos.”

(Photo: Kasey Mattison)

Being a mom following colon cancer is Mattison’s happy ending.

“He did an examination and looked at me and said, ‘Did you bring anybody with you?’ And I just went no, and my heart sunk because right at that moment that’s when I knew something was wrong,” Mattison remembers the conversation in November 2009 that changed her life.

It was Mattison’s first appointment with Dr. Andy Vorenberg, a Bon Secours Richmond Health System colon and rectal surgeon.

Mattison had noticed blood in her stool off and on for months. Cancer was not even on her radar because she was only 26.

“Never even thought about it,” she says. “And nobody in my family has a history.”

However, Dr. Vorenberg says recent cases are changing the face of colon cancer.

“All of a sudden we’re starting to see younger folks come through the office,” he explains. “And that’s sort of the alarming thing about the statistics. We don’t know why.”

A new study from the American Heart Association shows there has been a spike in people under the age of 55 being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Researchers found people born in 1990 have double the risk of getting colon cancer compared to people who are 40 years older.

Dr. Vorenberg says cases in younger patients are also often advanced because they do not seek medical attention after first noticing symptoms.

“Now the question is, should we be screening younger folks, younger than 50?” he asks.

Mattison was diagnosed with stage 2-borderline 3 colon cancer.

Her treatment was a success, but she points out lasting effects on younger patients wanting to start a family.

(Photo: Kasey Mattison)

“I went through menopause at 27,” she says. “The mental aspect after is really the hardest part.”

Mattison, who is now 34, went on to adopt Makayla.

She is looking forward to her baby girl’s third birthday in June and has words of encouragement for current patients.

“Going into it knowing you have a positive attitude is going to make a huge difference.”

Dr. Vorenberg says a colonoscopy is recommended for men and women starting at age 50. If there is a family history, patients should start getting the screenings at 40.

Symptoms of colon cancer include rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss.

Anyone who noticed these symptoms should get a checkup, according to Dr. Vorenberg.

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