Colon cancer increasing in people under 50

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new report finds colon cancer is increasing in people under 50 with one out of seven cases occurring before 50. It's leading some to think that screening guidelines should change. A metro man is among them after getting very bad news.

Shawn McMahon has had many doctors' visits since October when he had an upset stomach and some unusual fatigue.

"Normally I get up at 5 a.m. and I started sleeping in later," recalled McMahon.

A CT scan revealed why. He had cancer in his liver that had spread from his colon. It was stage 4, the most advanced cancer.

"I was really shocked," he said.

Ironically, McMahon works in medical sales and once sold equipment used in colonoscopy, the gold-standard screening for the cancer. But colonoscopy isn't generally recommended until people turn 50. McMahon is 45. He'd thought about getting screened earlier.

"But the way the insurance is set up now, it's not approved until you're 50," he said.

Experts may be re-thinking the guidelines after a new report found one out of seven colon cancers now occur in people under 50.

"I don't think we need to change the guidelines yet," said Dr. Addison Tolentino, a cancer specialist at Saint Luke's Hospital.

He added that more study is needed.

"We need to know will it really make a difference."

Dr. Tolentino says anyone who has rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits should seek medical help. Those are common symptoms of colon cancer although McMahon says he didn't have them.

The doctor also says screening may be covered by insurance before age 50 if you have a family history of the cancer. McMahon has a family history.

He's fighting the cancer with chemotherapy and will have surgery next month.

"I just feel like I'm gonna win," he said.

He feels he can win a very difficult battle.

The new research in the journal Cancer found patients younger than 50 are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, but they have better survival rates than older patients with advanced disease.