42-year-old man who had to go to the toilet more than usual had colon cancer

  • A man, 42, who had colon cancer that had spread to his liver urged others with symptoms to get checked.
  • Tom McKenna had diarrhea and saw blood-stained mucus on the toilet paper.
  • The number of people under the age of 50 diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer has increased since the 1980s.

A man in his 40s who was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer after experiencing diarrhea has urged others to get checked amid rising cases of the disease among those over 50.

Tom McKenna, 42, first noticed he was going to the toilet more often and having diarrhea in the summer of 2020.

“I saw horrible bloody mucus on my stool and on the toilet paper,” he told Insider in an email.

McKenna, who lives in the UK, also felt lethargic, but attributed that to working too much at his recruiting job and not getting enough sleep.

In general, he “felt fine”, but he went to see a doctor because of the diarrhea he was worried about.

McKenna had colon cancer that had spread to his liver

The doctor organized an invasive camera test called a colonoscopy, and McKenna was diagnosed with colon cancer that day. Further tests revealed it had spread to his liver, meaning he had stage 4 cancer.

The number of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the US – and other high-income countries such as the UK – has generally declined since the mid-1980s, in part because people aged over 45 in the US, or over 50 years old in the UK, are screened to detect cancer before symptoms appear.

However, the number of people under the age of 50 diagnosed with colorectal cancer in high-income countries has steadily increased over that period and now represents 10% of all new diagnosess, according to research. Many factors are believed to contribute to the development of colon cancer, including a diet high in red meat which can cause intestinal inflammation.

Thomas said his case was “bad luck”.

McKenna underwent surgery to remove 60% of his liver

The treatment a person has generally depends on how far the cancer has spread and may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery.

McKenna underwent two surgeries removing 60% of his liver in September 2020 and February 2022, according to a press release from Bowel Cancer UK, and another removing half of his colon and gallbladder – the organ stores bile that aids in digesting fats – in May 2021.

McKenna told Insider on Thursday that he gets pain around the surgery scars and that he avoids fatty foods and alcohol because they “come through very quickly.” He has also increased the amount of fiber in his diet.

As of December 2022, scans had not detected any cancer in his body for nearly a year. He will have another scan in May and then every six months for the next five years to make sure the cancer has not returned, he said.

Get a check ‘before it’s too late’

The American Cancer Society estimates that 106,970 people in the US will be diagnosed with colon cancer by 2023.

The likelihood that a person will live more than five years after a colon cancer diagnosis compared to someone without colon cancer usually depends on how far the cancer has spread.

“Colon cancer can be very inconspicuous for a long time, so I would encourage anyone who has any concerns or doubts to seek certainty before it’s too late,” McKenna said.

In addition to McKenna’s symptoms, others include: a feeling that the bowel is not completely empty after defecating, weight loss, and abdominal pain. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone with these symptoms speak with a doctor.

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