Guidelines Updated to Get Screened Starting at Age 45 Instead of 50
The hard truth is you’re never too young for colon cancer. If you haven’t had your colon checked, and you’re in your mid-40s, it’s time. According to newly updated guidelines by the American Cancer Society, people at average risk of colorectal cancer should start regular screening at age 45, instead of age 50.
Unfortunately, colorectal cancer has become a reality for many people younger than age 50, and numbers are still on the rise. 11% of colon cancer diagnoses occur in those under 50, and that’s why it is so important to educate ourselves about the risks, symptoms and treatment options for this disease.
Who is at Risk?
Regardless if you have symptoms or are of average risk, everyone should get screened. Age, family history, race, lifestyle and personal history of polyps are all risk factors that can affect your chances of developing colon cancer. People are considered to be at average risk if they do not have:
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
- A personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
Prevention is Easy
Despite its high incidence, colorectal cancer is unique in that it is one of the most preventable and, if found early, most treatable forms of cancer. The best part is screening is easy. Published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, the updated guidelines indicate there are six screening test options for adults. From colonoscopy to at-home stool tests, there are many options available. Colonoscopies are the “gold standard” for colon cancer screenings, as they are the only way to remove polyps that can progress to colon cancer. Other preventative screening options include:
- Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
- Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
- Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every three years
Visual (structural) exams of the colon and rectum
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- CT Colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every five years
Talk to your health care provider about which test would be a good option for you.
In the United States, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among adults and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Do not take these statistics lightly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 3 adults who need to be screened are actually doing it. Make the necessary steps to add ‘schedule a screening’ to your to-do list. Interested in learning more? Contact the professionals at Northeast Digestive and ask about our Open Access program and be sure to check with your insurance company to ensure a screening before 50 years old is covered under your plan.