What is the youngest that a child can get colon cancer? Yes, kids can get colon cancer, even though routine screening is recommended beginning at age 50.
When colon cancer occurs in children, the most common symptoms are abdominal pain or discomfort, followed by a change in bowel habits, says the Journal of Clinical Oncology (Adibe et al).
“Colorectal cancer is exceedingly rare in children,” says Santosh Sanagapalli, MD, a consultant gastroenterologist, endoscopist and specialist in esophageal and bowel disorders.
“While approximately 150,000 adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, less than 200 cases have been diagnosed in children over the last 20 years in the U.S.
“While rare, there seems to be no ‘youngest age’ that a child can develop colorectal cancer, and it has been reported in infants as young as nine months.”
The National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) says that one-tenth of a percent of cases occur in patients under age 20.
To look at this more broadly, it’s one case in 10 million under age 20, says a report from the Children’s National Medical Center.
What should parents do?
“Because of its rarity, colorectal cancer is very difficult to diagnose in children,” says Dr. Sanagapalli.
“Almost all gut symptoms in children will be due to benign causes, and parents of otherwise healthy children with gut symptoms should not be worried about colorectal cancer.
“A higher level of suspicion should be kept in children with hereditary cancer syndromes or where there is a family history of colorectal cancer in youth, or where the child suffers from inflammatory bowel disease.”
Nevertheless, additional concerning symptoms include blood in the stools, unexplained weight loss, an overall sick feeling and a loss of appetite.
If your child has any of these symptoms, don’t delay a medical visit, but don’t lose sleep, either.