As medicine and the medical field are constantly changing, we always have to be aware of the important updates in recommendations for screening and treatment. The most recent and notable change in the GI field is that the American Cancer Society is advising lowering the recommended age for colon cancer screening.
Who Should Get Screened For Colon Cancer?
Until recently, the standard guidelines indicated that patients at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin scheduling regular colonoscopies beginning at age 50. The news released recently lowered that age by five years, advising that people begin screening by age 45.
Why Were These Changes Made?
Cancer researchers have long been studying the trends, especially in regards to age, when it comes to who gets colorectal cancer. A study released in 2017 indicated that while there’s a decline in incidents of the disease in the over 55 group, there has been a notable rise of cases in the younger age group of adults ages 20-39. Since colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, new screening research has been vital in learning how to lower those numbers. This new recommendation for screening could aid in that shift.
What Should I Look Out For?
While colorectal cancer is usually discussed within the older age set, it’s not always on our younger patients’ minds, meaning it’s easy to ignore possible symptoms. Colorectal cancer presents itself in a variety of ways, some of which aren’t always glaringly obvious, but they need immediate attention. The most common signs of the disease include an unexplained change in bowel habits that last more than a few days, rectal bleeding, cramping accompanied by weakness and fatigue, unintended weight loss, a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that isn’t relieved after having one, and dark-colored stools.
There are some notable risk factors you should keep an eye on, especially if you fall into a high-risk category for the disease. These risks include a family history of cancer, especially colorectal cancer or polyps, or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease. Additional risk factors that are more within your control include smoking, having a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fruits and veggies, being overweight, and living a sedentary lifestyle.
What Should I Do Next?
If this information confuses you and you’re wondering what your next steps should be, you should consult both your insurance company and the team at Associates in Digestive Health. Since the update in screening guidelines has only recently changed, insurance companies may not have adjusted their coverage options, so colonoscopies under age 50 might not be covered. In the meantime, schedule an appointment with us to determine what steps you should take moving forward.