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Teaching kindergarten is exhausting, which caused Mariely Del Valle to start napping every day after work early last year, feeling unrested. Del Valle noticed she was becoming sensitive to certain foods, experiencing bloating and blood in her stool. She consulted her doctor and was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 40. After chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, she had surgery to remove it, along with parts of her liver and colon. Colon cancer has been rising in people under 50, especially in those in their 20s and 30s, for reasons not entirely clear, including sedentary lifestyles, rising obesity rates, and possibly environmental factors or diet.

Young people are less likely to seek treatment when experiencing colon cancer symptoms, which may lead to delayed diagnoses and more advanced stage 4 cases. Symptoms typically include bloody stool, changing bowel habits, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue. Colorectal cancer is the top cause of cancer deaths in men under 50 and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths for women under 50, after breast cancer. The recommended age for a colonoscopy is 45, but there is a call for increased screening for those between 45 and 49, especially for those at higher risk due to genetic predisposition or family history.

Del Valle is undergoing preventative chemo to prevent the cancer from returning and is grateful for the treatment she received. She emphasizes the importance of early detection and screening, urging others to not dismiss symptoms and to advocate for their health. Despite the initial shock of her diagnosis, Del Valle feels like she is now seeing light at the end of the tunnel and wants to raise awareness about colon cancer and the importance of getting screened. She believes that anyone can get cancer, regardless of age, and encourages people with stomach issues to consider getting a screening or colonoscopy.

Doctors like Dr. Andrea Cercek believe that more than just increased screening may be contributing to the rise in colon cancer in younger individuals, such as changes in lifestyle, obesity rates, environmental factors, or diet. Del Valle’s experience sheds light on the importance of listening to your body, seeking medical advice, and not delaying potential screenings or treatment. While the initial shock of her diagnosis was difficult, Del Valle is now focusing on spreading awareness and advocating for early detection to potentially save lives. Overall, educating the public about colon cancer symptoms and the importance of screening can help prevent delayed diagnoses and improve outcomes for those affected by this disease.

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