Study: Colon Cancer on the rise in young Hispanic American adults

Mar 4, 2022, 5:37 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:44 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — March is Colon Cancer Awareness month — an important reminder considering about 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer in the U.S. every year. Recent studies show this deadly disease hits certain demographics harder than others. That’s why one Utah man is sharing his story.

For Jesus Moreno, some things are easy to talk about, like cooking. He is a chef for Blue Lemon in Salt Lake City. Moreno grew up in Mexico, but started working in the restaurant business when he moved to the United States as a teenager.

“You feel really good about making food for other people,” he said. “When you like it, it’s not a job.”

Other topics are not so easy.

“You just don’t want to talk about it, you know?” he said.

Things like regular colon screening.

In October 2020, Moreno was unexpectedly diagnosed with colon cancer. He was just 39 years old.

“I started feeling like, kind of dizzy, kind of tired. I was losing some weight,” he explained.

Moreno also noticed blood in his stool — all typical signs of colon cancer.

Initially, his primary care physician told him he was likely dealing with hemorrhoids. When the bleeding got worse over the course of several months, Moreno knew something else was wrong and went in for a colonoscopy.

The diagnoses was shocking, and Moreno says the cancer was aggressive.

“I didn’t know what to think, because like I said, nobody in my family had cancer,” he said.

Jesus Moreno was diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2020. He went through six months of chemotherapy and three months of radiation before having surgery to remove part of his damaged colon. (Courtesy: Jesus Moreno)

Moreno went through six months of chemotherapy and three months of radiation.

“Really tiring, like really, really tiring,” he described.

The severity of his cancer had Moreno worried he might need ostomy surgery.

“When you think about having a bag all the time next to you go to the bathroom — it sucks,’ he said.

Moreno had surgery to remove part of his colon on May 28, 2021. Fortunately, the surgeon was able to successfully finish the surgery, without Moreno needing to use an ostomy bag.

“Oh really, really relieved. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with a bag,” he said. “I’m glad to be here… I’m still here for my family, for myself.”

A recent study shows young Hispanics, ages 20-29, had the highest rate of new colon cancer cases from 2001 to 2014. Yet Hispanic Americans are less likely to get screened for colon cancer than Caucasians or African Americans.

For Jesus Moreno, talking about colonoscopy screening was pretty uncomfortable until it saved his life. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2020, but thanks to excellent screening, treatment, and physicians, Moreno is healthy today. He is grateful to still be with his family and urges everyone who is eligible to go in for regular screening. (Courtesy: Jesus Moreno)

Moreno says he grew up in a culture where those topics were taboo, especially for men.

“We are Hispanics, so we don’t, like, talk about that,” Moreno said.

Let’s face it, bathroom talk is uncomfortable for anyone. Dr. Nathan Merriman, associate medical director of gastroenterology and digestive health at Intermountain Healthcare, tells people to blame the conversation on their doctor.

“Saying, ‘So my gastroenterologist said, I really need to talk to you about this,'” he suggested.

He says this conversation is especially important if you have a family history of colon cancer. In that case, people should start colonoscopy screening ten years before the age of their family member’s diagnoses.

For those of average risk, the recommended age for a first screening is now 45.

“Colonoscopy is still the best way to help prevent colon cancer by removal of the precancerous polyps before they turn to cancer,” Merriman explained.

Moreno had a false idea about what the actual process of getting a colonoscopy would be like. He said after having the screening, it wasn’t nearly as bad as he thought.

“I mean, you go to sleep. You don’t even feel it,” Moreno said.

He hopes to destigmatize the awkwardness surrounding colon screening, especially for those in his community.

“It is something normal to go do that stuff, you know?” he said.

Jesus Moreno is grateful to have survived colon cancer, giving him the gift of a second chance. He urges others who are eligible, to go in for regular colonoscopy screening. (Courtesy: Jesus Moreno)

Merriman says if you recognize signs of colon cancer, don’t delay care.

“As soon as symptoms show up, that’s when you really need to seek care,” Merriman urged.

In Moreno’s case, it made all the difference.

“Go get a screening. It can save your life. It did save mine,” he said.

Intermountain Healthcare saw an almost 50 percent decrease in colorectal screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Merriman urges those who put off their colonoscopy to make it a priority before it’s too late.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

When Harrison O’Toole of Layton was five-years-old, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital t...
Peter Rosen, KSL TV

Utah’s Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital celebrates 100 years of treating kids

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital is used to celebrating kids’ birthdays, but this year the staff there is saying ‘happy birthday’ to the hospital itself.
6 days ago
Mike Dbeisi and Austin Smith are avid outdoor enthusiasts and emergency room doctors with Intermoun...
Ken Fall

How to enjoy Utah’s mountain bike trails safely this summer

Utah is known for outdoor sports, but they don’t come without risk. Two Intermountain ER doctors share their advice for anyone looking to mountain bike in the backcountry.
10 days ago
Dennis Cecchini talks about the overdose death of his son, Tennyson. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox, KSL TV

The overdose-reducing drug doctors say more of us should have on hand

It can fit in your pocket and save a life. After overdose deaths from opioids climbed during the pandemic, medical workers and advocates are spreading the word about naloxone.
20 days ago
Mother offers her advice for keeping her kids active at the park in the summer....
Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Ways to keep your kids active during the summer break

With Utah's weather so nice this time of year, you would think getting kids to be active would be a slam dunk. But it can be a tall order given the draw of smartphones, tablets, and video games.
28 days ago
Watermelon pizza - Skip the sugary snacks this summer and make fruit the star of the show with thes...
Cindy St. Clair, KSL TV

Make fruit the star of summer snack time

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Between the BBQs, road trips, and busy schedules, summer can be a tough time to get healthy snacks into your kids. For Intermountain Healthcare’s corporate executive chef, Alex Govern, a little bit of sugar goes a long way in helping his kids eat healthy. “We don’t say no to sugars,” […]
1 month ago
Ken Fall, KSL TV

With warm weather arriving, keep your kids safe from window falls

It’s that time of year when windows are flying open to let in some fresh air. But it’s also when open windows and unsafe screens present a serious danger to little kids.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah Voters 50+ Support Increased Access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Study: Colon Cancer on the rise in young Hispanic American adults