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Are doctors failing to diagnose colorectal cancer in young people?

A now 44-year-old woman was experiencing all the tell-tale signs of colorectal cancer seven years ago. However, because of her age, doctors said a stomach bug, a brain disorder and anxiety were the cause of her symptoms.

After other treatments failed to alleviate her symptoms, the woman visited a specialist who performed a colonoscopy. It was discovered that the then 37-year-old had Stage II colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is more common in adults over the age of 50. However, more and more young people are being diagnosed with the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer rates increased by about 2 percent among adults ages 18 to 49 from 1998 to 2007.

Despite that, many people under the age of 50 receive a delayed cancer diagnosis because doctors fail to test them for the disease due to their age.

One woman was just 26-years-old when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. She says doctors misdiagnosed her for eight years.

"If patients are showing symptoms, they need to be tested no matter their age," the woman said.

Some doctors are reluctant to test young people for colorectal cancer because the procedure is so invasive. However, one doctor suggests looking at the risk factors for the disease, which include a family history, sedentary lifestyle, high-fat diet and obesity, to determine who should be tested as a possible solution.

A proper diagnosis can be the difference between life and death for some. It is for that reason why it is so critical for doctors to appropriately diagnose and treat their patients. When a patient in New York City and beyond is harmed because of a doctor's misdiagnosis, questions of medical malpractice may arise.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "More younger people getting colorectal cancer," Andrea K. Walker, July 29, 2012

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