(NBC News) Kevin Hays was just 28 years old when doctors told him he had colorectal cancer. The diagnosis was shocking.
“This is not a world that I anticipated or wanted to be a part of,” Hays says.
He’s one of a rapidly growing number of young people with colon cancer, a disease that behaves differently than doctors have seen historically.
“The earlier that the cancer develops, the less it looks like a standard colon cancer,” says Dr. Scott Kopetz of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
New research from MD Anderson finds early-onset cancer tends to have certain genetic mutations, tumors can develop in unusual areas of the colon, and they may need to be treated in new ways.
“They tend to be less responsive to our standard treatments, and perhaps this is in part due to the fact that their biology, that their wiring is different,” Dr. Kopetz says.
Younger patients have unique needs. Kevin Hays, for example, is a young father.
Colon cancer treatments can impact fertility.
It’s one of the reasons cancer centers around the country are beginning to boost resources for young colorectal patients.