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Advocates urge colorectal cancer screenings as more young people get diagnosed

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Posted at 10:18 AM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-20 09:32:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and advocates across the country are working hard to spread the message of the risks of letting it go undiagnosed and how and when you can get tested.

A new study out of the University of Colorado has found more and more young people are being diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. That’s prompting calls for early detection screening.

Researchers found patients between the ages of 20 and 29 had the highest increase in rates of new colon cancer cases and were more likely to be in the distant stages of cancer when diagnosed, meaning cancer has likely already spread.

The age for routine screenings for colon cancer was recently changed from 50 to 45. But with more cases of young people getting cancer, survivors like Andrea Bauer are hoping it gets lowered again or at the very least insurance will cover screening before the age of 45.

“We've got this huge group of people out there who are, you know, young mothers, young fathers who if they are screened now, we can save them so much pain, agony [and] heartache," Bauer said. "Nobody likes to hear you have cancer no matter how old you are. So if we can prevent that, then it is in our best interest to start these screenings as soon as we can.”

Younger people may not seek colon cancer screenings immediately because of a misconception that it’s an unlikely diagnosis. This delays the process and gives the cancer time to progress.

“Everybody complaints about the prep," Juli Ellis, a colon cancer survivor, said. "The prep was a lot better than chemo, it's cheaper than chemo and I am living with side effects, you know, again that I wouldn’t have had if I would have gotten screened early."

Common symptoms to look out for include rectal bleeding, persistent abdominal pain or fullness and unexplained weakness.

Last week, Indiana’s elected officials helped to reduce the burden of cancer on Hoosiers by passing House Bill 1238. That bill will eliminate cost-sharing for all preventative colorectal cancer screenings, including follow-up colonoscopies after an abnormal stool-based test for most private insurance plans.

According to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, an estimated 3,290 Hoosier will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and 1,160 Hoosiers will die from the disease.

That bill now awaits Gov. Eric Holcomb’s final signature.