SAN ANTONIO — Big news in the battle against cancer. It's recommended younger people now be screened for colon and rectal cancers. The U-S Preventive Services Task Force says screening should start at age 45 instead of 50.
"Nothing prepared me for this. This came out of nowhere, so it was definitely something that changed my life and changed my view on life. It was hard for me and my family," said 34-year-old Valerie Hinojosa. She says she even started planning for the worst. Hinojosa told us, "I'm like, OK, what do I have to do? Like, how do I start preparing for this? How do I make sure my family is taking care of make sure that they don't have to worry about anything."
Dr. Alicia Logue, Colon and Rectal Cancer Surgery Specialist at UT Health San Antonio's MD Anderson Cancer Center said Hinojosa is part of a worrying trend.
"We see patients not only in their 30s and 40s, but at times in their 20s with no risk factors, no genetic predisposition that unfortunately have symptoms that are oftentimes dismisses things such as hemorrhoids that ultimately end up developing a colon cancer," she said.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., and close to 53,000 people in the US are projected to die from it in 2021. Though most cases are diagnosed in people ages 65 to 74, the recommendation reflects a trend in recent years of cases among younger people.
"So we know that younger people in the last 30 years have had an increasing incidence of developing colon cancer even without any sort of personal or family risk factors," Dr. Logue added.
After 13 rounds of chemo and two surgeries, along with the support of her husband, 12-year-old son, co-workers and many friends, Hinojosa is now in remission.
"I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, like I feel like I'm just happy to be alive every day," she said, offering some life-saving advice. "I can't stress enough how much I want people to make sure that they take care of themselves and listen to their bodies."