The American Cancer Society Announces New Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines
Recently, the American Cancer Society announced that colon cancer screening in average-risk Americans should start at age 45 instead of the previous recommendation of age 50. The reason behind this is primarily that the rate of colorectal cancer is rising in younger people. Those of us that work in the field of gastroenterology have seen first hand how this disease has affected younger individuals, and because this problem is only growing, the American Cancer Society has decided to expand its screening guidelines to reach more people.
Some of you may be asking at this point, “Well, I’m 45 years old. Does this mean I need to get screened?” This is a great (and tough) question. The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), three of the major societies that provide us with strong clinical guidelines and recommendations, are all weighing this new recommendation very carefully and we hope to learn much more over the coming months. However, even before this updated guideline was announced, there have always been high-risk groups of people that have needed screening colonoscopies at a younger age, even some much earlier than age 45.
If you have family members that have had colon cancer or certain colon polyps, or if you are African-American, then your recommended screening age will most likely be younger than age 50. If you have experienced bleeding during/after a bowel movement or you have iron deficiency anemia, then don’t wait! You may need a colonoscopy now. As you can tell from this list, declaring one age as the recommended time for screening is a complicated matter.
Now that you know the risk, what can you do with all of this information and this new recommendation to get colon cancer screening at age 45? Well, first, talk to your doctors. The gastroenterologists at TDDC are highly knowledgeable when it comes to determining your specific risk for colon cancer and will help guide you. If it is time to get screened, then don’t fret. You may have heard about various tests available to get screened, but there is only one that not only diagnoses colon cancer but can help PREVENT it as well. That’s a colonoscopy, which has been the gold standard when it comes to screening and prevention. So, if you fall into any of these age groups or risk categories, speak to your doctor today. A colonoscopy could save your life.
By: Christopher Ramos, M.D., M.B.A.