Colorectal Cancer in young adults: A patient’s story

David Thau went to the doctor with severe
stomach pain thinking it was an ulcer or appendicitis. The news doctors gave him was a total shock. “I was diagnosed last June at age 34 with
stage IIIC colon cancer. I never expected to be diagnosed with cancer
at any point in my life, least of all in my mid-30s.” David learned he’s part of an alarming trend
– an increasing rate of colorectal cancer cases diagnosed in adults younger than 50
years old. “By the year 2030 there will be double the
number of patients with colon cancer and the risk of developing rectal cancer will be quadruple
that of somebody who was born in the 1950s.” Dr. Kimmie Ng is the director of the Young-Onset
Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. The center opened in 2019 and since then they’ve
seen a nearly 20-percent increase in the number of younger adults seeking treatment. “They are really passionate about figuring
out what is underlying this development of cancer in young people so that future people
don’t have to go through it.” There’s a commitment to services unique
to this age group like family planning and balancing career with treatment, and there’s
a commitment to profiling these young-onset tumors looking for molecular clues to guide
personalized treatment. The center also focuses on research giving
these patients the option to be part of the BEYOND CRC project that collectively looks
at data from this group. “We will be collecting blood samples, stool
samples for study of the microbiome, diet and lifestyle questionnaire information as
well as clinical data.” David lives in Washington D-C and has traveled
to Boston every two weeks for treatment. He said having a center dedicated to patients
his age, as well as a center that is focused on research is what drew him in. “I wanted the best treatment for myself, but
I also wanted to make sure I’m doing what I can to help everybody else who comes after
me. They’re at the cutting edge of research,
finding out exactly why people like me are getting these colorectal cancers. Coming to the young-onset center I realized
that not only was I getting world-class treatment, but I wasn’t alone.” “The BEYOND CRC project stands for Better
Understanding of Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer and the project will collect data for several
years to help guide research. For Dana-Farber News, I’m Victoria Warren.