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Colorectal cancer patients younger than 50 are alarming new trend, AdventHealth physicians offer ways to prevent a diagnosis

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Colorectal cancer survivor Erin Susino appears on WESH 2 News with Dr. Hernan Lopez-Morra, her gastroenterologist, to advocate for early screening.
Colorectal cancer survivor Erin Susino appears on WESH 2 News with Dr. Hernan Lopez-Morra, her gastroenterologist, to advocate for early screening.

Erin Susino, 42, is part of an alarming trend of younger patients getting colorectal cancer after doctors discovered a golf-ball sized tumor after her colonoscopy.

“I was shocked because when I went (for my colonoscopy), I was honestly thinking that this procedure was a rule out,” Susino recently told WESH 2 News.

Erin Susino headshot
Erin Susino, 42, prepped for her surgery to remove cancer found by her AdventHealth colorectal cancer care team.

Susino is not alone. According to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) study more young people, particularly men, are getting colon cancer earlier than ever before. In fact, it’s now the deadliest form of cancer among men under 50 and the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the same age group.

“45 is the new 50 for screening, ” Dr. Hernan Lopez-Morra, Susino’s gastroenterologist explained to WESH 2 News that last year the guidelines for screening lowered due to this trend.

Susino’s AdventHealth colorectal surgeon agrees, adding, “This is not just a wave. This is becoming potentially the new normal,” Dr. Nobert Garcia-Henriquez recently told Central Florida Public Media.

Garcia-Henriquez believes fast and processed foods may hold the answer as to why more young people are being diagnosed.

Dr. Garcia-Henriquez and Erin Susino
Susino's colorectal surgeon, Dr. Garcia-Henriquez, is proud of how well she is doing just a few months after the surgery to remove her cancer.

“People don't want to take the time to cook at home, clean (dishes), and eat healthy stuff. They want a fast answer,” he said.

Other lifestyle factors also play a role, says Dr. Lopez-Morra, “Red meat, high fat in our diets, alcohol, tobacco, and a sedentary lifestyle, but we can all change our circumstances here.”

Both, Dr. Garcia-Henriquez and Dr. Lopez-Morra, suggest incorporating colon healthy foods into your diet, such as:

  • Leafy green vegetables, grains and nuts (high in fiber)
  • Salmon and tuna (which has high omega 3 oils)
  • Blueberries (high in antioxidants)

Susino was diagnosed with Stage II cancer, but after surgery in February, which removed about 20% of her colon and 57 lymph nodes, by March, Susino was cancer-free.

“I have no molecular residual disease in my body. This is the greatest outcome I could get. I'm ecstatic,” she said with a smile. “I wondered, ‘how did I get so lucky?’ Maybe that’s part of my story – I get to share that with other people,” Susino told WFTV News.

That’s exactly what Susino plans to do – she now encourages people to get screened.

“If you find anything weird, I always tell people to give yourself a week. If it doesn't resolve itself, go see a doctor,” Susino said.

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