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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Age bias linked to delayed bowel cancer diagnosis

Young people may spend up to five years seeing multiple doctors before they are diagnosed with bowel cancer due to age bias.

Younger people with bowel cancer symptoms may make 10 or more visits to a GP before finally being diagnosed due to age bias, experts say.

People aged 25 to 44 are more likely to be diagnosed with the deadly disease at later stages as GPs often have a low suspicion of cancer when they are presented with symptoms in young people.

A study led by Klay Lamprell from Macquarie University's Australian Institute of Health Innovation found this often leads to missed diagnostic opportunities, which can affect patient outcomes.

"Young people with bowel cancer say the same the world over, because they are young they are overlooked for bowel cancer," Dr Lamprell said.

"Patients perceive their GPs' low suspicion of cancer given their age as an age bias that shapes the nature of clinical assessments, influences the investigations conducted and referrals given."

Even when younger patients have blood in their poo or rectal bleeding, GPs may not immediately refer them to specialists for further testing, Dr Lamprell said.

Being diagnosed at a later stage can increase the likelihood of aggressive treatment and affect fertility and ostomy management.

The study published in the BMJ Open medical journal also found younger people may spend between three months and five years seeing multiple doctors before diagnosis.

Bowel cancer is the deadliest cancer in people aged 25 to 44.

Incidence rates of the disease in people aged 15 to 24 years have nearly tripled in the past three decades.


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