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We know the incidence rate of young-onset colorectal cancer is rising, but what can we do? By taking action and taking control, we can help decrease these rising rates of young-onset colorectal cancer. Here’s how:

Educate yourself and your family

Know the risks associated with colorectal cancer.

Know your risk

Seek medical attention accordingly. If you’re in the high-risk group or have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should be getting screened earlier than age 50. Start a conversation with your doctor early.

Be your own health advocate

If something seems off with your body and your doctor isn’t acting on it, be a proactive patient and seek a second opinion. Physician-related delays (e.g., missed symptoms, initial misdiagnosis) have been estimated to occur in 15-50% of young-onset colorectal cancer cases.*

Primary care physicians: What can you do?

Primary care physicians (PCPs) have an important opportunity to improve detection of colorectal cancer in younger populations. Here’s how:

Individualized colorectal cancer risk assessments

They’re essential in all adults, regardless of age, as they pave the way for earlier targeted screenings, preventive surgeries, risk modifications, and lifestyle changes (e.g., weight reduction, increased exercise, smoking cessation, etc.). They also start conversations about colorectal cancer risk factors in average-risk younger populations, decreasing reluctance of screening once age 50 is reached. This is particularly important because colorectal cancer screening compliance in those 50-59 is considerably lower than those age 60-69 and 70-79.


PCPs may improve time of diagnosis, disease stage at diagnosis, and outcome by quickly and thoroughly evaluating symptoms consistent with colorectal cancer, regardless of age. This evaluation in young adults will help ensure a potential diagnosis is not missed or delayed.

Talk it out

On average, young-onset patients may delay 6.2 months before seeking care. PCPs may not be able to directly influence a young patient’s decision to seek care when symptoms first appear, but talking about colorectal cancer risk factors and symptoms, the importance of screening, and the value of early detection during routine visits may give a base knowledge and increase comfort levels with the topic, leading young folks to seek care earlier.

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