HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more younger people are getting colon cancer.
Amber Stinson was shocked when she was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 45.
“I had no classic symptoms. On New Year's Eve of 2019, I simply felt a non-painful lump on my right abdomen,” said Stinson.
Stinson is a nurse practitioner. She is now about to start her 18 chemotherapy treatment after three big surgeries and several other procedures.
She said at the time of her diagnosis, she was in the prime of her career, has three children and felt fine.
“I was like, 'How could this have happened with no symptoms?' It really can be a silent disease, which is why screening is so very important,” said Stinson.
Getting screened early is also the advice from Colorectal Surgeon Gregory FitzHarris from Sentara.
“Screening is a way to prevent cancer, so if you get screened, you can prevent getting colon cancer, and certainly the data proves that,” said FitzHarris.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2020, 12% of colorectal cancer cases will be diagnosed in people under 50. That's about 18,000 cases.
“I think it's important the public understands that the incidence of colorectal cancer is rising in the younger age groups,” said FitzHarris. “It's actually decreasing in the older age groups - probably because of widespread screening - but then it's increasing in the lower age groups, and we’re not a hundred percent sure why.”
He suggested that people look to see if their insurance will cover them to get screened.
According to the CDC, colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.
If you have symptoms, they may include:
- A change in bowel habits.
- Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
- Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way.
- Abdominal pain, aches or cramps that don’t go away.
- Losing weight and you don’t know why.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
Stinson wants to share her story to warn others and talk about this issue.
“Just take it one day at a time. Cancer can make you feel very out of control, and you just have to focus on the things that you can control,” said Stinson.
Click here for information on National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Click here to learn more about screening.