KUSA - For decades, colorectal cancer screenings have generally been reserved for people over the age of 50, but new data shows a sharp increase in the number of millennials being diagnosed.
With a lack of screening in younger people comes an increasingly frequent discovery of the cancers in late stages.
Registered nurse, 32-year-old Anna Rappaport of Denver, is a perfect example of this problem and she's talking about the unsavory details in hopes of driving the number of cases back down.
“I was supposed to go to Vietnam. It would have been my 39th country. I am a big traveler,” Rappaport said. “And I saw quite a lot of blood in the toilet and I thought, I shouldn't be going to the developing world when I am having these crazy symptoms.”
Rappaport had been tracking the symptoms for years, but she says her doctors never suspected cancer and never ordered a colonoscopy until she pushed hard for answers.
“They were joking on their way into the OR. They're like, you're so young,” she said. “The next thing I know the doctor shook me awake and said, you have cancer.”
Her sense of humor and outlook makes it hard to recognize a stage III-c rectal cancer patient. She jokes about “butt jokes” and says people need to be more comfortable talking about “poop and butt stuff.” On the surface It's a difficult recognition for physicians to make too as for so long colorectal cancers have been mainly associated with older people.
“I literally had no risk factors. All of the people with I've connected with here in Colorado were all below 35, were all thin,” she explained of her support group.
A new report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute doesn't have answers as to why millennials are now twice as likely to get colon cancer and four times as likely to get rectal cancer than older folks were at the same age. But what's clear to Rappaport is that it's time for insurance companies to start offering screenings of younger people when they notice something's not right.
While cases have increased for millennials, they've gone down overall. That's attributed to the regular screening of older people who are most likely to get colorectal cancer.
“I think this is proof, with all of the research that is coming out that we really need to reassess the screening guidelines and start screening people and providing colonoscopies an earlier age.”
After chemotherapy, Rappaport says she plans to continue traveling.
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