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The Alarming Rise of Colorectal Cancer: Patient Advocate Trevor Maxwell Explains Why Basic Screening Is Mission Critical 

This marks the 60th episode of the Precision Medicine Podcast as host Karan Cushman begins a two-part series focused on colorectal cancer with Trevor Maxwell, Founder and CEO of Man Up to Cancer. Trevor was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at age 41 and attests that it feels like we are back in the early days of breast cancer in terms of building awareness around the criticality of basic screening, yet the statistics are startling.

In this Part 1, Trevor helps us understand the facts and current trends behind the second-leading cause of death for both men and women in America today. Trevor notes a 1% to 3% increase in the young-onset cohort every year. The big question, he says, is “why?”....

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Today, 80% of adults younger than 60 are not being effectively screened for colorectal cancer. They now have a 50% greater chance of being diagnosed than they did in the 90s. Additionally, the rise of early-onset CRC—even in otherwise healthy young people in their 20s and 30s—is unprecedented.


Guest Trevor Maxwell shares some of the prevailing theories around the steady increase in young-onset CRC, including diet and sedentary lifestyles; the ubiquity of microplastics and antibiotics; the need for concerned patients under 50 to wait up to 18 months for a colonoscopy, and even the fact that many men won’t complete a screening procedure that is too invasive. But that doesn’t seem to explain the people Trevor regularly meets through his work who are in their 20s and 30s—people with their whole lives ahead of them—who have been diagnosed with CRC.  He's concerned that there aren’t effective screening protocols in place for 18 to 45-year-olds, and that a medical system that doesn’t perceive a risk for this age-group poses a real barrier. Trevor also reminds us that CRC is highly treatable and highly curable in stages one through three. Unfortunately, many of the younger patients he meets weren’t diagnosed until they were in the late stages of the disease when the five-year overall survival rate plunges below 15%.


Karan and Trevor go on to discuss treatment options and what can be done to bring more awareness to young-onset CRC. Trevor suggests that critical communication is not happening with patients because oncologists are overwhelmed by day-to-day work and a proliferation of new research. He likens it to ‘drinking from the firehose, saying, ‘There’s no way that they can keep up with the pace of information that’s happening, even some of the basic things that should be expected now. So, I think that’s where we get into this patient to patient, we’re still seeing a lot of patients who are told at the community level that they have limited or no options, and then they get their second opinions, and all of a sudden, those options open up.’


Trevor’s advocacy work closely aligns with the mission of the Precision Medicine Podcast, which is to bring people together around the need for more awareness and access to precision medicine. His non-profit, Man Up to Cancer, offers a support community for men that encourages them not to isolate during their journeys with cancer. He has been living with stage IV colorectal cancer (CRC) since 2018 and recently authored the highly acclaimed book  “Open Heart, Warrior Spirit: A Man’s Guide to Living with Cancer”.


Be on the look out for Part 2 of Karan’s discussion with Trevor where he shares learning of his stage 4 cancer diagnosis, the darkness he faced during his mental health struggle and how he himself found a way to Man Up to Cancer. We hope you’ll tune in.

Download the full transcript of the episode here (pdf).


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About Our Guest

Trevor Maxwell

Founder and CEO, Man Up to Cancer

Trevor Maxwell is the founder and CEO of Man Up to Cancer, a support community that inspires men to connect and avoid isolation during their cancer journeys. He is the author of Open Heart, Warrior Spirit: A Man’s Guide to Living with Cancer.”


Trevor has been living with stage IV colon cancer since March of 2018. He has undergone seven major surgeries, chemotherapy,  immunotherapy, and a clinical trial. He lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, with his wife and two daughters. As a patient leader, he has received the Annette Cook Cancer Warrior Award and the Amanda Dempsey Award. 


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