Dallas Man Fights Colon Cancer While In His 20s

27-year-old Evan White said he thought colon cancer was an "old people" disease.

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The death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman this summer refueled concerns about a trend that doctors say they've seen in recent years: More young people are getting colon cancer.

At 27 years old, Evan White knows the trend too well.

White's colon cancer diagnosis came as a shock three years ago.

He was only 24 years old, with no family history of the disease and he said he didn't think too much of small warning signs, like blood in his stool and extreme fatigue

"I would attribute that to maybe just having a bad weekend, drinking or something like that," said White.

The diagnosis launched him into what's now been a three-year battle.

He beat it after surgery, but the cancer came back.

It's now spread to his lungs. He receives chemotherapy at MD Anderson on a regular basis.

"I thought... always thought colon cancer was a disease for old people," said White.

This year, 18,000 people under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with colon cancer, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society.

That number grows year after year and while doctors aren't sure why they believe environmental and lifestyle factors play a role.

"The correlation between lifestyle, obesity, maybe some changes with more processed food and diet are really the main links that have been shown to be related or associated to this," said colorectal surgeon at Baylor Scott & White Dr. Clifford Simmang.

Right now, there's a large national effort among medical and scientific groups to expand colon cancer research and decide whether to lower the recommended screening age.

As of 2018, the recommendations say screening should begin at age 45 for people at average risk.

Previously, the guideline-recommended screening begins at age 50 for people at average risk.

"While the debate is ongoing, I would say there are a couple things that every person can do," said Associate Professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson Dr. Nancy You.

"Watch for symptoms. Understand what they may be and watch for them. Second is to really know your family history and third, to get screened as soon as you hit the age," Dr. You.

For White, that means continuing the conversation about colon cancer while fighting to keep it from controlling his life.

"I'm ready to take on headstrong, whatever lies ahead of me with a smile on my face."

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