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34-Year-Old With Colorectal Cancer Reveals the Warning Signs He Missed

The patient says he brushed off potentially serious symptoms he noticed when he was just 28.

While we often associate getting older with an increased risk of certain health ailments like colorectal cancer, the unfortunate truth is that we're still susceptible at any age. Data from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) shows that rates of young people being diagnosed are now on the rise, making it more important to look out for the disease earlier in life. But as one colorectal cancer patient now reveals, it can still be easy to brush off some potentially serious warning signs.

RELATED: Walgreens and Target Face Cream Has Chemical Linked to Cancer, Research Claims.

In a recent conversation with Self, 34-year-old Joe Faratzis explained how there were several symptoms he mostly ignored leading up to his diagnosis in 2019. He said it began when he noticed a bit of discomfort in his abdomen whenever he went to tie his shoes.

"When I would bend over, sometimes I would have a dull ache in my bottom right portion of my abdomen," he explained in more detail in a recently posted TikTok video. "It wasn't a…stabbing pain or anything like that, but more of a dull ache when you would bend over."


Replying to @David quick rundown of a few symptoms i had before my colorectal cancer disgnosis for those asking! #cancer #cancersurvivor #cancersymptoms #coloncancerawareness #coloncancersymptoms #rectalcancer #guttok

♬ original sound – radiant14

Despite having his doctor order a CT scan to look into the pain during an appointment, Faratzis says he never went for the screening, assuming it was just an unnecessary precaution. But six months after he first noticed the abdominal discomfort, he saw another potentially serious warning sign.

"Kind of semi-occasionally—like a couple times a week—after I would go to the bathroom, I would notice a tiny bit of red blood on the toilet paper," he explains in his TikTok post. "And I honestly always just kind of brushed it off and put it off for [expletive] way too long—like months—but that was my biggest red flag for sure," adding that he was also going to the bathroom "way more often than I should have…a couple [of] times a day."

Faratzis told Self that at the time, he kept assuming his problem was related to a less serious issue like hemorrhoids until he noticed a much larger amount of blood in the toilet one day after using the bathroom. He then returned to his doctor, who passed him along to a gastrointestinal specialist after a digital rectal exam didn't uncover any immediately pressing issues. But while the specialist also initially suspected a more benign cause of his problems, a colonoscopy they ordered discovered he had stage II colorectal cancer known as adenocarcinoma.

The recent increase in diagnoses of the disease in younger people has also led some doctors to help expand awareness about the kinds of red flags you need to be aware of. In a video posted to TikTok last March, gastroenterologist Joseph Salhab, MD, shares the most telling symptoms—including some of those Faratzis experienced early on.

One indicator you may be able to notice right away is a sudden change in bowel habits. Salhab explains that this means "new-onset diarrhea and new-onset constipation—especially if you're straining now more than usual" or if your stools are narrow or thinner than usual. He says this could be a sign of a polyp or precancer in the colon blocking the intestines.

In an earlier video, Salhab warns that unexplained abdominal pain, finding traces of blood in your stool, unexplained weight loss, and unexplained anemia can also be warning signs of colorectal cancer.


Here are a few alarm signs and symptoms that should prompt you to talk to your doctor about getting screened for colorectal cancer. #gutttok #healthtok #healthytips #cancer #constipation #colon #doctor

♬ original sound – Dr. Joseph Salhab

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noticing any of these symptoms is a reason to schedule a visit to your doctor. And while there's the chance they could be caused by something other than cancer, being aware of the red flags can make it much easier to find and diagnose any potential issues and improve outcomes.

Faratzis says that after an initial round of chemotherapy and surgery, doctors unfortunately found that his cancer had progressed to stage IV and spread to his lungs and liver. But while the following years have involved multiple procedures and nearly constant monitoring, he says he remains hopeful—despite holding on to one regret.

"Listen to your body," he told Self. "If you think there's something wrong, it doesn't hurt to go get it checked out. If I hadn't waited—if I got the CT scan back in 2019 when I had my earliest colorectal cancer symptoms—I might not have wound up in the position I'm in now. Be your own healthcare advocate. No one else is going to hold your hand and do it for you."

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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