We were thrilled to cohost the Colorectal Cancer Survivor Panel Lunch & Learn at the recent OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults with our friends at Chris4Life. Our young cancer survivors and volunteers have been very vocal that we need to address their unique needs. We know this group responds to treatment differently than older patients. They’re often in the middle or the beginning of their careers and are managing families. And sadly, this group is the only segment where colon cancer rates are increasing as opposed to the decrease we’ve seen in older populations.
The Lunch & Learn was an educational, emotional, and empowering experience. We met many young survivors who were at different places in their journeys. But one theme resonated with everyone in attendance: the need to be connected to others who are going through the same experience.
Many patients and caregivers became emotional as stories were shared with the group. One stage IV mother shared that she was diagnosed when she gave birth to her first child; a stage IV young man was diagnosed as he was finishing his medical degree; a stage IV teacher has been told traditional treatment will no longer help and is now desperately trying nontraditional herbal supplements; parents and caregivers told us they wished they had been diagnosed instead of their loved one.
It was striking to hear these stories, but uplifting to watch as the conversation ignited during Dr. Christopher Lieu’s inspirational and informative presentation. He talked candidly to the group about the importance of getting a second opinion and being a proactive, informed patient. He also highlighted the need to get the young-onset colon cancer trends on the radar of doctors and the public alike in order to start turning these trends around.
We gained some tremendous insight by being part of this powerful panel. We continue to learn more about the needs of the under-50 community, and we’re proud to say we are making moves to address these needs. We want to understand more about the biology of young colon cancer. Why are the tumors different? Can we decrease the number of young survivors getting diagnosed with stage III and IV colon cancer?
To do that, we will fund a research grant through the American Association of Cancer Research in 2015. We also want to partner with more organizations. We know together we can make a difference faster. We also hope that our patient and provider materials
will help light the conversations that need to happen. Ultimately, we need more people and practitioners to know that you are Never Too Young for colon cancer. The movement to make a difference in this area has started and we can’t wait to see the impact we will have when working together toward this goal.
Jasmine Greenamyer is the Chief Operating Officer of the Colon Cancer Alliance, and Martha Raymond is Patient Support & Outreach Director.