VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Cheryl Brothers has been teaching math for five decades. One thing she never counted on was a cancer diagnosis. “I was taking care of my mom with Alzheimer’s so, the colonoscopy was not number one on my list of things to do,” she told WAVY.
Brothers had no symptoms but she kept hearing her dad’s voice telling her to get the test. It turns out, father knew best.
“Hers was unusual; it was very very small,” said Dr. Keith Berger. He explained that early detection is the key to saving lives. “It’s a bit of a mechanics analogy. You don’t drive your car until you hear noise coming from the engine before you change the oil.”
Since routine screenings started in the 1990’s colon cancer deaths have been cut in half for those over 55 years old, Dr. Beth Jaklic told 10 On Your Side. She and other physicians are increasingly concerned about the number of people getting it in their 20s and 30s. “They estimate that at this trend, by 2030 there will be twice as many colon cancers in young people than there is now (and) four times as many rectal cancers,” she said.
The American Cancer Society now recommends colonoscopy screenings at age 45.
Dr. Jaklic warns, no matter your age, you should never ignore the warning signs.
- blood in bowel movements
- increased diarrhea or constipation
- felling bloated or crampy
- unexplained weight loss
“I think the main push is that young people and their doctors start to realize this isn’t just an old persons disease,” said Dr. Jaklic.
Brothers is now 19 years cancer free and sharing her life lesson with students. “If one of them goes back and says something to somebody and it actually gets them to go out and have that test done then we may have saved a life.”
Doctors are not sure why colon cancer is increasing in younger adults but here’s a few things to keep in mind; obesity, sedentary lifestyle and a family history are all risk factors and Black adults are 20% more likely to get it and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups.