Almost 70% of patients aged younger than 50 years had to see at least two physicians before being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, according to results of a survey scheduled for presentation at American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting.
These previous misdiagnoses often led to colorectal cancer being diagnosed at a later stage, results showed.
“Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable [cancers], and early detection could cure most patients,” Ronit Yarden, PhD, MHSA, director of medical affairs at Colorectal Cancer Alliance, said during a press cast. “Traditionally colorectal cancer has been associated with aging, which is why guidelines call for initiating screening for [this disease] at the age of 50 [years]. It is estimated that about one in 10 new cases of colorectal cancer are in a patient younger than 50-years-old.”
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States among both men and women. It is also the second deadliest.
Previous studies have shown patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer when aged younger than 50 years often have later stages of the disease.
Yarden and colleagues evaluated data from 1,195 surveys completed by patients and survivors of colorectal cancer.
Fifty-seven percent of the cohort was diagnosed when aged 40 to 49 years, 33% when aged 30 to 39 years, and 10% when aged younger than 30 years.
About 30% of all the patients reported having a family history of colorectal cancer, and 8% were diagnosed with Lynch syndrome.
Results showed 71% of patients were diagnosed at stage 3 or stage 4 of the disease.
Further, 67% of patients saw at least two physicians before being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 63% of patients waited 3 to 12 months before deciding to see a physician.
Many patients reported that they did not recognize the symptoms of colorectal cancer, leading to the delayed visit to the doctor.
Thirty-three percent patients saw only one physician, and 17% these patients said they were initially misdiagnosed.
Researchers distributed the survey via social media and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance website, which meant that it was limited to people who had access to those platforms.
“As we all know, early detection is critical to successful treatment and cure of colorectal cancer,” Yarden said. “This survey shows that most young adults were diagnosed with advanced stages of colorectal cancer after it had spread both regionally to lymph nodes and to distant organs, such as the liver and lungs.
“Both the medical community and the general population should be aware that colorectal cancer — which is one of the most preventable diseases — can happen in young adults,” Yarden added. “Symptoms should not be dismissed at any age, and screening should be extended if we want to beat this disease.” – by John DeRosier
Yarden R, et al. Abstract 3347/13. Scheduled for presentation at: AACR Annual Meeting; March 29-April 3, 2019; Atlanta.
Disclosures: This study was funded by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. The study authors report no relevant financial disclosures.