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Colorectal Cancer Rising in Younger People

One of my patients, Barkley Booker, considers every day a gift after being diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer at the age of 37. Today, the mother of two girls ages 14 and 11, is a survivor because she quickly sought medical care when she noticed symptoms.

It’s important to note that Barkley’s case was rare because colorectal cancer can often go undetected until it has significantly advanced. And while more than 90 percent of new cases occur in people 50 and older, the disease has become a reality for many people younger than age 50; it is the only group in which incidence rates are on the rise.

The Colorectal Cancer Multidisciplinary Care Team at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center recommends individuals with risk factors get screened regularly. Common risk factors include:

  • Age 50+
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Family history of colorectal cancer

Anyone with symptoms such as rectal bleeding, change in bowel function, abnormal weight loss and abdominal pain should see their doctor immediately. There are a variety of ways to test for colorectal cancer, including colonoscopy, which is the gold standard for early detection. Take home fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kits to detect hidden blood in stool are also available.

Colorectal Cancer

Barkley always tells people that getting screened for colorectal cancer is nothing to fear. It’s much better than the alternative of being treated for the disease. Because she took action early, she’s able watch her children grow up and live a healthy, active life. Now, Barkley, who works in sales/consulting, is writing a book about her cancer journey and other life experiences. Watch the video below to hear more about her story and the importance of paying attention to your body.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so now is a great time to learn more about the disease. For more information on colorectal cancer and screening options, visit To find out where you can pick up a free FIT kit at one of the Cancer Center’s free screenings, call (225) 215-1234.