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Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer May Often Be Misdiagnosed

Last Updated: February 28, 2019.

Many patients with young-onset colorectal cancer, diagnosed at age 20 to 49 years, are initially misdiagnosed, according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, to be held from March 29 to April 3 in Atlanta.

THURSDAY, Feb. 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Many patients with young-onset colorectal cancer (CRC), diagnosed at age 20 to 49 years, are initially misdiagnosed, according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, to be held from March 29 to April 3 in Atlanta.

Ronit I. Yarden, Ph.D., and Kim L. Newcomer, from the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in Washington, D.C., conducted an annual comprehensive survey of 1,195 young-onset CRC patients and survivors to track clinical, psychosocial, financial, and quality-of-life experiences.

The researchers found that 57, 33, and 10 percent of patients were diagnosed between ages 40 and 49 years, between ages 30 and 39 years, and before age 30 years, respectively. Seventy-one percent of young-onset patients and survivors were diagnosed at advanced stages (stage III and IV); they were subjected to aggressive therapies and a considerable reduction in quality of life, including neuropathy, anxiety, clinical depression, and sexual dysfunction. Sixty-three percent of the patients and survivors waited three to 12 months before visiting their doctor, partly due to being unaware that their symptoms were related to CRC. Most patients were initially misdiagnosed; 67 percent had seen at least two physicians before being correctly diagnosed with CRC.

"Young people need to be aware that colorectal cancer can happen at any age and it is not a disease of old people," Yarden said in a statement. "Everybody should listen to their body and, if it doesn't feel right, go to the doctor to be tested."

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