#BowelCancerAwarenessMonth - Not just an older person's disease

Together we are Forbes


07 April, 2021

Leonie Millard

Bowel Cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer*. On the 28th of August 2020, Chadwick Boseman Star of 'Blank Panther', died aged 43 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, a stark reminder that colon cancer is not just an older persons disease and young people are at risk too.

In the UK, more than 42,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the large bowel each year, 94% of these cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50 however between 2005 - 2014*. Bowel cancer cases increased on average by 7.3% each year in 30-39 year olds. The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) report highlights two major health concerns**:

  • cancer rates are increasing in young adults under 50;
  • black individuals are 40% more likely to die from colon cancer than white individuals.

Researchers are unable to explain this trend, however it is believed genetic, social and environmental factors are at play.

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer arises from the inner lining of the large intestine. The source is usually a polyp or growth in the colon or rectum. Common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight loss.

Historically, young people have tended to associate blood in the stool with haemorrhoids, and abdominal pain with irritable bowel syndrome.

Risk factors for colon cancer include;

  • genetic disease
  • Diet and alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Ulcerative colitis.

Colon cancer diagnosis

Colon cancer is often diagnosed by colonoscopy, but in young people it is often not detected until a later stage, and so proving more dangerous. The impact of delay in diagnosis is twofold. It impacts on functional outcome, and can lead to a permanent stoma, fertility issues, and effect ability to work. The second relates to survival and the long-term effects of radiotherapy.

How might the situation improve?

The key to detection is getting tested. If the trend continues, screening guidelines may need to be reconsidered if they are age bias. Young people should be aware of their lifestyle choices. If you have a family history of colon cancer or any of the symptoms mentioned, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Unfortunately all too often we see cases of negligence where there has been a failure to recognise symptoms and refer; Inadequate investigation where GPs are told the first colonoscopy was normal despite poor preparation; Delayed investigation and as a result a delay in diagnosis. For more information on this subject visit our cancer misdiagnosis claims page here.

With the change in trend and the significant potential outcome if ignored, it is essential that we start to talk about it to raise awareness.

If you have suffered as a result of cancer misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis you could be entitled to cancer misdiagnosis compensation. To speak to a solicitor, complete our online enquiry form here or call 01254 872 111.

*Bowel cancer facts | About bowel cancer | Bowel Cancer UK

** International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP)

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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