HMH: Advancements Improving Colon Cancer Outcomes

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and Hackensack Meridian Health physicians have been on the cutting edge of revolutionizing colon cancer screening and treatment with new options aimed at improving patient experience and outcomes.

While there’s a decline in cases among those aged 65 and older, a troubling increase persists among those aged 50 to 54, highlighting a pressing health concern, according to HMH, the largest healthcare provider in New Jersey. The American Cancer Society projects around 106,590 new cases of colon cancer in 2024.

Colon Cancer Rates are Rising in Patients Under 50 Years Old

“I don’t have to worry about colon cancer until I’m in my 50s.” It’s probably one of the most common and concerning misconceptions about this potentially deadly disease. Although that sentiment may have been true decades ago, according to the American Cancer Society, the proportion of colorectal cancer cases occurring in people under age 55 doubled from 1995 to 2019, from 11% to 20%.

Carla Deschamps is a colon cancer survivor who was diagnosed at 34 years old. She recalled at first, she had never even heard of a colonoscopy. 

“The doctors said you’re not going home. They told me I had colon cancer and needed to schedule me for emergency surgery ASAP,” Carla recalled. “I was in denial. It didn’t hit me until after the surgery. And then I learned there was a history of colon cancer in my family,” Deschamps said.

Four years later now at age 38, thanks in part to the treatment by the renowned oncology staff at The John Theurer Cancer Center that treated her at Palisades Medical Center, she is not only surviving cancer-free, but she is thriving. 

Deschamps’ age and journey highlights the importance of early detection and awareness among younger individuals.

New Screening and Treatment Options

More tolerable colonoscopy prep methods and cutting-edge screening technologies like the Medtronic GI Genius™ AI-assisted colonoscopy are just some of new innovations making a difference at HMH. By utilizing advanced computer-aided detection algorithms, these technologies enhance the real-time identification of colorectal polyps, facilitating earlier diagnosis and prevention of colorectal cancer, which remains the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

HMH is leading the exploration of biomarker blood tests for asymptomatic patients, showing promising potential in detecting colon cancer and other cancers at early stages. These developments are a significant leap in the fight against colon cancer, offering hope for improved patient outcomes and a reduction in mortality rates.

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. During Colon Cancer Awareness Month, HMH reminds people to prioritize regular screenings and embrace preventive measures. By raising awareness and advocating for early detection, individuals and communities alike can make strides in reducing the impact of colon cancer and create better outcomes for all.