A man, 42, who had colon cancer that spread to his liver urged others with symptoms to get checked out.
Tom McKenna had diarrhea and noticed blood-stained mucus on the toilet paper.
Rates of people younger than 50 diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer have increased since the 1980s.
A man in his forties who was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer after he had diarrhea has urged others to get checked out, amid rising rates of the disease among under-50s.
Tom McKenna, 42, first noticed he was going to the toilet more often and having diarrhea in the summer of 2020.
“I noticed a horrible bloody mucus on my stools and on the toilet paper,” he told Insider in an email.
McKenna, who lives in the UK, also felt lethargic, but put that down to working too much in his recruitment job and not getting enough sleep.
Generally speaking, he “felt absolutely fine” but he went to see a doctor about the diarrhea, which concerned him.
McKenna had colon cancer that had spread to his liver
The doctor organized an invasive camera test, called a colonoscopy, and McKenna was diagnosed with colon cancer that day. Further tests revealed that it had spread to his liver, meaning he had stage 4 cancer.
The rate of people diagnosed with colon cancer in the US — and other high-income countries like the UK — has decreased overall since the mid-1980s, partly because people aged older than 45 in the US, or older than 50 in the UK, are screened to detect cancer before symptoms emerge.
However, the rate of people younger than 50 diagnosed with colorectal cancer in high-income countries has steadily increased over that period, now accounting for 10% of all new diagnoses, according to research. Many factors are thought to contribute to developing colon cancer, including a diet high in red meat that may cause gut inflammation.
Thomas said that his case was “bad luck.”
McKenna had surgery that removed 60% of his liver
The treatment a person has generally depends on how far the cancer has spread and can include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery.
McKenna had two surgeries that removed 60% of his liver in September 2020 and February 2022, according to a Bowel Cancer UK press release, and another that took away half of his colon and gallbladder — the organ stores bile that helps to digest fats — in May 2021.
McKenna told Insider on Thursday that he gets pain around the surgery scars, and he avoids fatty foods and alcohol because they “pass through very quickly.” He’s also increased the amount of fiber in his diet.
As of December 2022, scans hadn’t detected cancer in his body for almost a year. He will have another scan in May and then every six months for the next five years to check the cancer hasn’t returned, he said.
Get check ‘before it’s too late’
The American Cancer Society estimates that 106,970 people in the US will get diagnosed with colon cancer in 2023.
The likelihood that a person will live for more than five years after a diagnosis of colon cancer compared to someone without it typically depends on how far the cancer has spread.
“Colorectal cancer can be very inconspicuous for a long time, so I would encourage anyone who has any issues, or any doubts, to seek assurances before it is too late,” McKenna said.
In addition to McKenna’s symptoms, others include: a feeling the bowel isn’t completely empty after pooping, weight loss, and tummy pain. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone with those symptoms speak with a doctor.
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