Panhandle seeing increasing rate of colorectal cancer cases in young adults

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 9:03 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - March is known as Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

For decades, the colorectal cancer death rate has been dropping for decades for older adults, however the rates of cancer have been increasing in younger adults.

Panhandle health experts say there are many reasons behind the increasing rates.

“By exposing ourselves to more toxins, we’re eating more processed foods, like red meat, you’ve heard the saying you are what you eat,” said Dr. Izi Obokhare, physicians surgeon, TTUHSC.

Other factors include: not enough exercise, drinking, or smoking.

Now that the screening age has dropped to 45, more are getting screened, leading to more cancer being detected.

Even if you are below the screening age, doctors encourage you to pay attention to any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Health experts say those symptoms may include a change in bowel habits, blood in or on stool, diarrhea, constipation, feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way, abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away and losing weight.

Doctors say regular screenings can save lives.

“The thing that most people think about automatically is colonoscopy, which is the gold standard test of screening for colon cancer,” said Dr. Rodney Young, family medicine physician, TTUHSC.

He says there are other options, such as a fecal immunochemical test (F.I.T.).

“It’s really just taking a sample once a year that is easy to collect, it’s not too gory, gross of a process and you send that in and it’s tested to see if there’s any signs of hemoglobin, the red blood cell protein from humans in the stool,” said Dr. Young.

If that test comes out positive, you would go on to have a colonoscopy.

Doctors say some may avoid colonoscopies because of the cost, especially those who are uninsured.

The Get F.I.T to Stay Fit program, through Texas Tech Physicians Surgery in Amarillo, can help with that.

The program provides free F.I.T. tests to those between 45 and 75 years old or have an immediate family member diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Those participants who receive a positive F.I.T test will be provided with resources for a free colonoscopy.

The Get F.I.T to Stay F.I.T program is grant-funded through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and serves the top 32 counties of the Texas Panhandle.

To learn more about the program, click here.