Rise In Bowel Cancer Among Young People

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the fourth most common cancer in the UK with almost 42,000 people being diagnosed every year. In the vast majority of cases the disease is diagnosed in people over the age of 50 but it is important to remember that bowel cancer can affect those of any age and indeed recent research has shown an increase in the disease in younger adults.

New research

Incidence rates in adults aged 20 to 39 across Europe over the last 25 years were analysed using data from 20 European national cancer registries, including the UK. The research revealed that between 2008 and 2016 incidence rates increased by six per cent every year.

Despite this increase, this type of cancer remains rare in younger people. There are now around 2,100 people in the UK under the age of 50 diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and this figure represents only 5% of everyone diagnosed in the UK each year.

However, bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer, despite the fact that it is treatable and curable, particularly if diagnosed at an early stage. Currently in the UK, NHS bowel cancer screening is only offered to people aged 55 and over as this age group is the most likely to be affected, but with more and more young adults being diagnosed, it is important that you are able to recognise the symptoms and consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of bowel cancer which affect more than 90% of those diagnosed include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your stool
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

If you have any of the above symptoms, don’t be embarrassed and certainly don’t ignore them. The chances are that you do not have bowel cancer as there are a number of other health conditions that can cause similar symptoms. However, it is always better to be safe and consult your GP if you have any concerns.

Getting a diagnosis

The impact bowel cancer has on younger sufferers is often disproportionately worse than their older population counterparts, as studies have shown that young-onset colorectal cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage and is often more aggressive, making it more difficult to treat.

Possible reasons for this are that many younger people are not aware that they could be at risk of bowel cancer and even where they are aware of the symptoms, they do not recognise them as serious when they experience them. This can result in delays in going to see the GP and research has found that even when they do go to the GP, there are considerable variations in how younger people and the possibility of bowel cancer are treated.

Findings from Bowel Cancer UK’s “Never Too Young” survey found that “younger people take longer to be diagnosed and often face delays, in some cases having to see their GP more than five times before being referred for crucial tests. On top of this they also have poorer outcomes – 60% are diagnosed at the later stages of the disease and 34% are diagnosed in emergency care when the chance of survival is lower.”

Here at Lanyon Bowdler we understand the difficulty our clients have in coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis, particularly when there are questions about the standard of care they have received. If you consider that your care has been affected by a delay in diagnosis, it’s important to consider all the options available to you. Our team are happy to discuss the matter with you and guide you through the process sensitively.