Ed­u­cate pa­tients and doc­tors for ear­lier can­cer di­ag­noses

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - Carolyn Rye, Vir­ginia Beach

I’m writ­ing to ad­dress the re­cent Na­tional Can­cer In­sti­tute study on the rise of early-age-on­set col­orec­tal can­cer [“Col­orec­tal can­cer rates rise in U.S. mil­lenials,” front page, March 1]. My daugh­ter was di­ag­nosed with Stage 2 colon can­cer at age 24, just two years re­moved from her col­lege var­sity field hockey ex­pe­ri­ence. Seven years later, she re­mains thank­fully healed.

Teenagers and young adults are not the only ones for whom col­orec­tal symp­toms may go un­rec­og­nized or be ig­nored, but too of­ten when such pa­tients share con­cerns, doc­tors al­low a low sus­pi­cion of can­cer to cloud their judg­ment. My daugh­ter and I are both ac­tive in na­tional ad­vo­cacy ef­forts, and we hear story af­ter heart-rend­ing story of symp­to­matic in­di­vid­u­als younger than 50 who did not get a thor­ough, timely eval­u­a­tion. As a re­sult, the dis­ease upon di­ag­no­sis is of­ten, sadly, more pro­gressed. Timely re­fer­ral to a spe­cial­ist can help with ear­lier de­tec­tion and in­crease sur­vival rates.

Par­ents can play a crit­i­cal role in teach­ing their chil­dren about symp­toms and mak­ing healthy lifestyle choices. In con­cert with bet­ter-in­formed pri­mary care providers, more young peo­ple can be al­lowed the chance to live their full lives.

Timely re­fer­ral to a spe­cial­ist can help with ear­lier de­tec­tion.

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