CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Chad Arcand was just 46 years old when he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The active father of two had just returned home from deployment in Afghanistan when he started noticing blood in his stool and abnormal weight loss.
Arcand and his wife never imagined that his diagnosis would be stage three cancer.
"The doctor said, 'you have a tumor.' Kerrie and I didn't know what to do," Arcand recalled.
Arcand immediately began treatment, including four months of radiation and chemotherapy to try and shrink the tumor before surgery.
Arcand's physician, Dr. Christine Bouchard, M.D., a colorectal surgeon with Johnston-Willis Hospital, says she's seeing more younger patients like Arcand in her practice with both colon and rectal cancers.
"In the past, we recommended that colon cancer screenings begin at age 50 for people who are of average risk, and now because colon cancer and rectal cancer are increasing in younger people, they've now changed the recommendation to age 45," Bouchard said.
There are more than 200,000 cases of colon cancer in the United States per year. It is among the leading cause of cancer death.
Most cases of colon and rectal cancer begin as small clumps of cells known as polyps. If polyps aren't detected early, they can grow and metastasize.
Unlike many cancers, colon and rectal cancer can be diagnosed early with routine screenings and polyps can easily be removed during a colonoscopy in a doctor's office.
"We can actually prevent cancer from happening to you," said Bouchard. "It's something so safe and easy and certainly if you have concerns about it, I would encourage you to talk to your physician about it."
Because of military screening guidelines, Arcand caught his cancer at 46 years of age. He hopes awareness will help others.
"There's a different perspective on life when you've been diagnosed with cancer," Arcand added.
Abdominal cramps, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and a change in bowel habits, including bleeding, can all be signs of colon or rectal cancer. It's important to talk to your doctor about any changes to your health. Family history also plays a role in the risk of developing these types of cancer.
Working For Your Health is a partnership with HCA Healthcare. Serving the greater Richmond area, Chippenham, Henrico Doctors’, Johnston-Willis, Parham Doctors’, and Retreat Doctors’ Hospital are part of HCA Virginia. Watch for Working For Your Health reports Tuesdays on CBS 6 News at 7 p.m.