Rising rates of colorectal cancer for young people underlies lobbying effort

March is “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month”
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:08 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON - As colorectal cancer cases continue to grow amongst young people, advocates are gathering in Washington D.C. to lobby lawmakers for more federal funding to research the disease.

By the year 2030, some experts predict colorectal cancer will be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for people under the age of 50. On the National Mall Monday, survivors and families of victims gathered as thousands of blue flags were laid into the ground to symbolize the spike in cases.

The CDC describes colorectal cancer as a disease in which “cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.”

Advocates remind young people they should speak to their doctors about being screened. On Tuesday, the lobby group plans to head to Capitol Hill to meet with individual lawmakers and urge them to take action.

Learn more about screening for colorectal cancer here

Read more about the rising cases in young people here

Wesley Hensel is one survivor who attended a rally near the Washington Monument on Monday. He was diagnosed at the age of 34. He has been clear of cancer for nearly four years.

“It can happen to you, I mean, it can happen to anyone and it’s just something that we need to be vigilant about. This is preventable and that’s why we’re here to tell people that getting screened saves lives,” he said.

Hensel joined the rally with his friend, Jennifer Ganser. She echoed his warning.

“My husband was also diagnosed at age 34 in 2012 and he fought for six years and passed away at the age of 40 in 2018. And, we have a son that’s 23 tomorrow and is in that statistic that by 2030 of it impacting young people,” she said.

Experts still don’t know why cases are on the rise amongst young people.

Pushing for more funding for research, advocates highlighted that Congress has recently lost one of their own to the disease.

Representative Donald McEachin of Virginia died last November.

March is colorectal cancer awareness month.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 153,000 people will be diagnosed this year.

More than 52,000 of those will likely lose their lives to colorectal cancer.