Diagnosis of Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer Often Delayed

Hematochezia among most common presenting signs and tied to fivefold increased risk
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

WEDNESDAY, May 29, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of individuals diagnosed with early-onset colorectal cancer (EOCRC) present with hematochezia and abdominal pain and one-quarter present with altered bowel habits, according to a review published online May 24 in JAMA Network Open.

Joshua Demb, Ph.D., from the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues examined the most common presenting signs and symptoms with EOCRC (<50 years), their association with EOCRC risk, and time from presentation to diagnosis.

Based on 81 studies (>24.9 million patients), the researchers found that the most common presenting signs and symptoms included hematochezia (pooled prevalence, 45 percent), abdominal pain (pooled prevalence, 40 percent), and altered bowel habits (pooled prevalence, 27 percent). Higher EOCRC likelihood was associated with hematochezia (estimate range, 5.2 to 54.0), abdominal pain (estimate range, 1.3 to 6.0), and anemia (estimate range, 2.1 to 10.8). A mean of 6.4 months was seen from time from signs and symptoms presentation to EOCRC diagnosis (median four months).

"These findings and the increasing risk of CRC in individuals younger than 50 years highlight the urgent need to educate clinicians and patients about these signs and symptoms to ensure that diagnostic workup and resolution are not delayed," the authors write. "Adapting current clinical practice to identify and address these signs and symptoms through careful clinical triage and follow-up could help limit morbidity and mortality associated with EOCRC."

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