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Am Surg. 1998 Sep;64(9):849-53.

Colorectal cancer in the young patient.

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Department of Surgery, Louisiana State University Medical Center-Shreveport, 71130, USA.


Although predominantly a disease of older adults, colorectal cancer affects the younger population with an incidence of two to six per cent. It is thought to carry a less favorable prognosis in the young than in the general population. This may be due to advanced stage of the tumor at diagnosis. This study is composed of 37 patients, aged 40 and younger, treated over a 20-year period for colorectal cancer at Louisiana State University Medical Center-Shreveport and E. A. Conway Hospital. It was performed to investigate the incidence, stage at diagnosis, and prognosis of colorectal cancer in these young patients. The location of the primary tumor was fairly evenly distributed throughout the colon and rectum in this population. Pain, weight loss, rectal bleeding, and nausea and vomiting were the most common presenting symptoms. A family history of colon cancer or premalignant lesions were not risk factors in this study. Seventy per cent of all patients were treated with curative intent, and 42 per cent of these patients developed recurrent disease. The patients in this review presented with a higher incidence of advanced disease. Thirty-seven per cent of the lesions were Duke's C and 22 per cent were Duke's D, with poor 5-year survival (11% and 0%, respectively) when compared with national studies. The absolute 5-year survival for all young patients with colorectal cancer was 26 per cent (5 of 19 patients). It is important for the surgeon to be aware of the potential for colorectal cancer in young patients and to take an aggressive approach to the diagnosis and early treatment of the disease.

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