The Maag Lever Darm Foundation and the Darm Cancer Foundation are concerned about the decline in the number of colon cancer diagnoses. The foundations and several doctors are therefore using today – the kick-off of the international colon cancer month – to call on people with intestinal complaints to sound the alarm.
In 2020, nearly 120,000 people were diagnosed with colon cancer; that is a decrease of 8.4 percent compared to a year earlier. That seems like good news, but most likely the decrease is mainly due to the corona crisis. Many people postpone a visit to the doctor. In addition, the bowel cancer screening program was halted for about three months last year.
According to Manon Spaander, gastrointestinal liver specialist at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the decrease in the number of diagnoses appears to be mainly the result of ignoring intestinal complaints. Because a large part of the backlog of the population screening has now been made up, says Spaander, who is involved in the national population screening. “In addition, if the study is delayed for more than six months, only then will there be an impact on both the increase in the number of colon cancers and the number of colon cancers found at an advanced stage.”
Which complaints indicate colon cancer?
So it is important to see a doctor in time for complaints, but what are those complaints exactly? Spaander mentions blood in the stool and an altered stool pattern as two main symptoms that can indicate colon cancer. “A changed stool pattern is, for example, if you normally have stool every day, and now suddenly only once a week. Or if the thickness of the stool suddenly changes: first very thick and now very thin, for example.”
Spaander finds it difficult to say why people visit their GP less. “It may be that people do not want to burden the care, or that they are afraid of becoming infected. But it is also important at this time to go to the doctor with complaints.”
‘Test from 50 years old’
According to the organizations, it is also important to participate in the population screening. “Colon cancer at an early stage does not always have to be accompanied by complaints. Screening is therefore the most important prevention. So you get a call: take part,” says Spaander.
Several doctors and foundations already called in one last year brief to extend the age of the population screening to Dutch people from 50 years old. Now people aged 55 to 75 are invited for colon cancer screening. According to Spaander, the reduction is especially important because there is an increase in colon cancer in a younger population. The signatories state that a thousand cases of colon cancer per year can be detected early because of the reduction.
“The risk of colon cancer increases from the age of 50. The largest group of colon cancer patients is still between the ages of 55 and 75, but we do the screening mainly to prevent cancer by finding and finding polyps in the colon. of colon cancer at an early stage, “says Spaander.
It is not yet possible to say with certainty why people are dealing with colon cancer at an ever younger age. There are currently many investigations into causes. “Research is being done into nutrition, diabetes, obesity and medication. Everyone is working hard to find a cause, but there are many factors to consider.”
A spokesman for the Maag Liver Bowel Foundation emphasizes that the organization is still behind the call to lower the age limit, but this was not in the foreground due to corona in the past year. “We will evaluate the research again at the end of the year.”