San Diego (KGTV) - The American Cancer Society has lowered the age you should be screened for colon and rectal cancer from 50 to 45, sighting the growing number of younger people are getting sick.
Researchers say rising obesity rates, processed foods and sedentary life-styles may be related but as 10-news Anchor Jim Patton found out -from a physically fit San Diego police officer- we should all be concerned.
"I was running, exercising... Overall, I was eating healthy," says San Diego police officer Richard Valenzuela.
At 35, he says he and his wife Erica are just getting started with their young marriage of two years, "We have so many goals we want to reach, my wife and I."
Like dreams of beginning their own family, but that is now on hold. "I was noticing one or two symptoms here and there, but some were far far apart, you know... So, I didn't put them all together."
Richard says it was about two years ago, while vacationing in Manhattan, when he was hit by extreme fatigue.
"I would have to take breaks. I found myself saying can we go back to the motel room. She was like, what's wrong with you?"
Along with the lack of energy, Richard says there was chronic constipation. So, he went to his doctor.
"When I first got sick, I asked my doctor for a colonoscopy and he said you're too young, You're too young for a colonoscopy. It's not going to be worth it, it's too invasive, it's not necessary."
But when the symptoms wouldn't go away, Valenzuela says his doctor agreed to the exam but perhaps too late.
"By the time they caught it, says Valenzuela," it was stage 4. And looking back I do regret it; not pushing for that test. Not pushing for the colonoscopy."
Now facing the biggest fight of his life, Valenzuela has the support of fellow officers who gathered at his home on the day of our interview. The mood jovial but the reality always there.
I asked Officer Valenzuela, "What's going on inside of you that maybe you're not letting out to everybody?" He takes a breath and responds, "I'm terrified. I'm terrified."
But that doesn't mean giving up. Our interview concludes with Richard saying, "We feel confident we're going to get to that 9 or 12 percent - we'll be that little miracle that makes it."