DENVER — A Denver couple is experiencing something they never would have imagined. Both of them were diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer within six months of each other.
With a 5-year-old son, Kacie Peters and Erik Stanley want to share their story as more people under 50 are getting this same news.
The American Cancer Society recommends people at average risk for colon cancer should start screening at age 45. In 2018, it lowered the age because studies showed the rates of this cancer are going up among people younger than 50.
Peters is 35. Stanley is 41.
Peters' symptoms were abdominal pain and severe nausea.
"Typically it takes about a year for someone under 40 to get diagnosed with colon cancer, and that is not for a lack of trying," Peters said. "It is for lack of doctors understanding that this happens."
Peters said she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in January 2020. Then it became stage 4 by July 2021.
"We don’t get it caught at the polyp stage," she said. "We don’t get it caught in the very early tumor stage. Stage 3 is when it gets to your lymph nodes. Stage 4 is when it gets to your other organs, and you don’t notice anything happening until it is that bad."
In mid-February, doctors told Stanley he also had stage 4 colon cancer. He said he also had stomach pains.
"After seeing her go through it, and I talked away the own signs of mine," he said. "I would hope people would be better advocates for their health than I was."
Stanley said he never got a colonoscopy. He went to an emergency room for the stomach pain, and a doctor ordered a blood test.
"The blood test had shown my hemoglobin, one of the indicators, was very low," he said. "That triggered a lot of other tests."
Stanely and Peters said neither of them had a primary care doctor before their diagnoses. They're now strongly encouraging people their age to get one.
Peters also wants to see the recommended age for screenings to go below age 45.
"If you find that something is wrong and you feel the doctor isn't taking you seriously, it is OK to get a second opinion," she said.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States when men and women are combined. It recommends adults age 45 and older undergo regular screening with either a high-sensitivity stool-based test or a structural (visual) exam, based on personal preferences and test availability.
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