texas oncology more breakthroughs. more victories

Colorectal Cancer Rising Among Young Adults

Publication: KAMR-TV (NBC, Amarillo)

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — According to Texas Oncology, colorectal cancer is on the rise among young adults.

That was the reality for Gabby Ingram who was diagnosed with stage one colon cancer at 27 years old.

“In October of 2022, I started to have a little bit of bright red blood in my stool,” said Ingram. “I noticed it and thought, that’s kind of odd, but I didn’t really think much of it, I thought, I’ll clean up my diet, get back to exercise regimen, I’ll just kind of watch it make sure I’m not eating anything strange or of particular color.”

Ingram’ symptoms didn’t stop and in February of 2023 Ingram had a colonoscopy and received her diagnosis.
According to Texas Oncology people in the early stages of colorectal cancer do not have symptoms but they can include the following:

  • Abnormal bowel habits

  • vomiting, diarrhea, constipation

  • anemia

  • cramping or stomach discomfort

  • feeling bloated or frequent gas

  • blood on stool

  • feeling weakness and fatigue

  • decreased appetite and unexplained weight loss

“Early detection is key with colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Rachel Weinheimer, Texas Oncology colorectal surgeon. “While it is the most common cause of cancer death in people under 50. It is largely preventable. If we can find a precancerous polyp, with a colonoscopy, we can prevent all of the downstream consequences of having a very life altering and very fatal cancer. So I would encourage everybody aged 45 and older to go ahead and get a screening colonoscopy, for their health, for the well being of themselves and their families.”

A healthcare provider herself Ingram was able to ask about and seek out different resources. She began treatment at Texas Oncology who created an individualized plan.

“I was very understanding and open because obviously, we had something that we needed to take care of, and the cancer diagnosis was the primary thing at the forefront,” explained Ingram. “They knew that I wanted to have kids and we were just recently married and that was kind of where our life trajectory was headed. This was definitely a bump in the road but they did not let that kind of leave their minds I think as they were customizing my treatment plan.”

Fortunately the tumor was in a place that could be reached with surgery, and Ingram did not have to undergo radiation or chemotherapy.

“Because it was such an early stage that the surgery was the cure,” said Ingram. “Now I just do really routine, follow up care and monitoring. So definitely a blessing in that way.”

Knowing that Ingram and her husband wanted to start a family the treatment plan also included family planning through fertility treatments.

“Prior to any of her treatment, we arranged for Gabby to have fertility treatments, we arranged for her to have her eggs harvested in preparation for potentially for chemotherapy or radiation,” said Weinheimer. “Luckily for Gabby, her treatment was able to be limited to just surgery and we were able to achieve a cure without having to go ahead with radiation or chemotherapy.”

Texas Oncology offers comprehensive care for patients, allowing patient care teams to collaborate all in one building.

“We’re really proud that we’re able to have a multidisciplinary approach to our treatment,” said Weinheimer. “All of our patients were able to provide a consultation to get an opinion for surgery, we’re able to provide an oncologist who can provide their chemotherapy, we have our radiation oncologist across the hall. It makes us be able to facilitate their care.”

Ingram had no relevant family history of colorectal cancer and knows firsthand the importance of taking the initiative to seek medical attention if something isn’t right.

“I definitely think that I can confidently say that it’s not a 50 plus disease anymore,” said Ingram. It’s, not even a 40 plus disease. It’s not that clear cut. I was 27 at the age of diagnosis and so it’s definitely happening earlier.”

Ingram continued, “I read somewhere, you know, a colonoscopy is a lot less uncomfortable than cancer. When you boil it down, that’s really what you’re looking at, like get a colonoscopy and if it’s clear, awesome. So you took a day off work and it was kind of for nothing, but you have the peace of mind, and you know that nothing is wrong.”

According to Weinheimer risk factors for colorectal cancer include smoking, obesity, increased alcohol intake, and lack of activity.

“Many of us are predisposed to a sedentary lifestyle right now and that sedentary lifestyle can lead to an increased rate of having colon and rectal tumors,” said Weinheimer. Also, there are changes in our food sources and our dietary habits that have also led to increased rates of colon rectal cancer in our society.”

If you have family history of colon cancer Weinheimer shared you can begin screening early at age 40 or ten years prior to when a family member was diagnosed.

“About a third of people who have colorectal cancer under 50 now have a genetic mutation that is predisposing them to develop this cancer,” said Weinheimer. “So because genetic abnormalities are more common in people who develop colorectal cancer at this point, we do encourage genetic testing. Whenever you do have a diagnosis of colorectal cancer or someone in your family has that diagnosis.”

With Ingram and her husband being newlyweds and new to the area they relied on each other and their families to get through the challenging times.

“My mom and mother in law hopped on a plane and was at my door front before I even said that I needed them,” explained Ingram.

Ingram continued, “my husband was rock solid. If he cried, I didn’t know and to have his support through it all, it was someone to brainstorm with. He never blinked at researching something. I think sometimes he had opinions, or felt a certain way about, you know, the chemo talk specifically. He really wanted to hear me out and, and not kind of influenced me, he was supportive. He was incredible.”

Now a colon cancer survivor Ingram has a new outlook on life and doesn’t hesitate to listen to her body.

“Somewhere along my journey, I read a quote that said, if you listen to your body, when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream,” said Ingram. I think that is so impactful and empowering. Hear it when it whispers, listen to it, do the things that you need to do try to change some things. If it doesn’t work, find the resources to get it looked into. It’s definitely given me a whole new perspective on a lot of things.”

Click here to watch the full story.

Related Physicians

Related Cancer Centers