A cancer-stricken woman in her 30s warns others not to ignore early signs of the disease, amid an epidemic of young people.
Candace Henley, 55, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 35. While cancers are often considered a “disease of the elderly” – experts warn that the average age of diagnosis is getting younger.
Earlier this month, the American Cancer Society warned that diagnoses among people under 55 have doubled in the past 25 years. The age group now makes up one in five cases in the United States.
In response to this growing trend, the US Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that Americans begin receiving cancer screenings starting at age 45 — down from the previously recommended age of 50.
After her diagnosis, Ms. Henley is now raising awareness of early-onset colorectal cancer and pushing others to get screened if they experience early symptoms.
Candice Henley (pictured), now 55, was diagnosed with the devastating disease at the age of 35
Henley (pictured) warns other young people to get screened for cancer early so they can avoid the grueling treatment she underwent
‘I will not ask (God) for anything else,’ she said, ‘but in return I will do whatever I need to save another person from the trauma my family and I went through.’ Good morning America (GMA).
She said that at the time of her diagnosis, she was in so much pain daily that she had trouble standing.
“I could not stand,” said Mrs. Henley.
Finally, one of my cousins said, “That’s it.” We’re going to the emergency room. “
The colorectal cancer category includes many diseases that occur in the stomach or rectum.
It’s the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States — behind breast and lung in women and prostate and lung in men.
More than 150,000 cases are diagnosed collectively in the United States each year, and the disease is responsible for 50,000 annual American deaths.
Cases have remained steady over the past decade, with 147,000 diagnosed cases in America in 2010.
Treatable cancer is caught before it spreads, with 91 percent of people diagnosed in the early stages of the disease surviving for at least five years.
But the risk of dying increases exponentially as the disease progresses. Once it metastasizes — when cancer spreads to other organs — and spreads to distant parts of the body, the chance of survival drops to just 14 percent, According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
This makes early screening for colorectal cancer crucial, and means that people with early symptoms should urgently seek testing rather than write them off.
Cruelly, an all-important disease caught early is often asymptomatic until it actually progresses to a serious stage.
Ms. Henley founded the Blue Hat Foundation in 2015 hoping to raise awareness of this devastating disease, and its early signs.
“We try to make sure that we connect the patient to what they need,” she told GMA.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I did,” she continued.
Communities of color will continue to be left behind in search if we do not participate willingly this time.
We must do our part to help improve health outcomes for our community and it is not enough to complain and wait. We must be proactive, educate ourselves and make informed decisions about our health.
Colon cancer rates have increased among adults between the ages of 20 and 49. Scientists say more than 40 percent of diagnoses are among people between the ages of 45 and 49.
What are the early signs of colorectal cancer?
blood in the stool
The most common early sign of colon cancer is blood in a person’s stool.
While damage to the rectum can sometimes cause blood to appear in defecation, doctors recommend examining a person who frequently finds red in the stool.
Blood finds its way into the stool because of the damage the cancer causes to the wall of the rectum.
These cancers usually begin in the mucosa, the inner lining of the intestine.
As it grows, it will eventually reach the wall of the rectum and begin to push it inward.
This can lead to a tear in the wall of the rectum, causing a small amount of blood to mix with the stool as it passes.
Sometimes, blood causes stool to turn a very dark color instead of red, which doctors warn shouldn’t be overlooked either.
A change in bowel habits
A seemingly harmless sign of bowel cancer is a sudden shift in how often a person goes to the bathroom.
A person with the disease may suddenly start going to the bathroom less often.
They may also suffer from constipation or diarrhea for long periods of time. Another common sign is pencil-shaped stools that are narrower than normal.
This happens because the cancer changes the shape of a person’s rectal passage.
As it grows, it pushes against the wall and narrows the anus. This makes it difficult to go to the bathroom and can also lead to someone using it a lot.
Cold hands and feet
One sign that people may not relate to colorectal cancer is the sudden development of cold hands and feet.
People with cancer often suffer from anemia, a condition in which there are not enough oxygen-rich red blood cells in the body.
Colorectal cancer patients experience continuous and inadvertent blood loss through the rectum – often showing up in the stool.
This depletes the body’s storage and can lead to a problem.
Decreased blood supply means less blood circulation throughout the body, and the extremities—hands and feet—end up getting less blood than they should.
As a result, colorectal cancer patients often experience cold fingers and toes.
The growth of a tumor in a person’s stomach or rectum often causes pain.
Doctors describe the pain associated with colorectal cancer as mild and constant.
As the cancer grows, it pushes against the body’s organs, bones, nerves, and other tissues, causing pain.
This is the case for all forms of cancer, as tumor growth begins to disrupt the rest of the bodily processes.
Abdominal pain is one of the most obvious signs of cancer, and doctors will immediately warn patients with such persistent pain to be examined.
As cancer grows in the human body, its cells begin to release toxic waste products of metabolism. This is true of almost every type of cancer.
In the case of colorectal cancer, it can disrupt how the body processes food as energy and speed up someone’s metabolism. This means that they burn more calories each day and can quickly start losing weight.
Cancer cells also eat the body’s fuel as well, burning more calories. While a person may not know they have a tumor, their immune system does, and will activate to fight it.
This process also burns valuable energy stores.
Polypous growths in the colon can also block the stomach and prevent a person from eating a lot each day.
For these same reasons, many colorectal cancer patients also report extreme fatigue.