Colon cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of cancer in the world. As there are often no symptoms of the disease at its early stages, getting screened is extremely important. This procedure allows your doctor to look for signs of colon cancer and save your life.
Because of the growing number of diagnosed patients from the younger, the American Cancer Society has recently released its updated colon cancer screening guidelines. Instead of the previously suggested age of 50, the recommended time to start screening now is when you reach 45.
What’s behind this change?
The reason the American Cancer Society is now urging people starting age 45 to get screened is that there is a rise in colon cancer diagnoses from this age group. While most people get the disease well over their 50s, we cannot ignore the rising incidence rate of colon cancer among people between the ages of 20 and 35.
In the early 1990s, the number of patients from ages 50 to 54 were half those in their mid- to late 50s. However, from 2012 to 2013, statistics show that people seem to be develop the disease younger. This is the reason the health organization is suggesting the change. They think it may have a bigger impact on reducing the mortality rate from colon cancer. After all, the earlier you catch it, the higher your chance of being cured.
It is also important to note that this is only a guideline by one society. Other gastroenterology organizations have not completely endorsed this update yet. Conversations are ongoing among these bodies regarding this new recommendation. Additionally, it is still unclear whether insurance companies are going to cover the age reduction.
Why is colorectal cancer becoming more common among the younger generation?
There are many factors at play as to why people are getting colon cancer at a younger age than before. Some of these include environmental factors, such as eating a high-fat diet, smoking, lack of fruit and vegetables, being obese, and not exercising.
A review of 29 studies showed that consuming high amounts of red meat, whether fresh or processed, increases the risk of colon cancer significantly. There is also a higher incidence of obesity and diabetes in the younger population, which could contribute to their susceptibility to colon cancer. Genetic factors may also play a role.
What is the true impact of lowering the screening age?
Specialists say that we have to wait for enough population data to be sure. Whenever they establish a screening test into place, they have to consider the cost of the procedure as well as the benefits and risks that come with it. Scientists also need to look at the rate of incidence of the disease being screened for. If cost wasn’t an issue, then taking the screening test early is definitely a good idea, especially in today’s situation where there is a growing trend of more polyps and colon cancer in younger adults than what data showed two decades ago.
In the meantime, more discussion on the topic needs to happen. Health organizations are currently evaluating younger patients with any suspicious signs such as anemia, bleeding, or change in bowel habits, many of whom will have a colonoscopy.
Of course, some populations are more at risk than others. The African-American community was always endorsed by the American College of Gastroenterology to begin screening at age 45. Meanwhile, those who have a family history of colon polyps, colon cancer, or disorders that are linked to the condition should definitely start at a younger age. That includes people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. In any case, seniors who are over 85 should no longer get tested.
What are the recommended colorectal cancer screening tests?
There are several test options available today. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about which tests might be good for you, and to check for insurance coverage as well. Some of the stool-based tests include: highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) which is done annually; highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT), also done every year; and multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) which should be done every 3 years.
Forms of visual exams include: flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every five years, CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) also every five years, and colonoscopy every 10 years. No matter which test you choose, what’s important is to know that your health is not at risk. The guidelines emphasize that these procedures must be repeated at regular intervals to be effective.
What is the importance of regular screening?
Colon cancer typically occurs when you develop a small polyp on the inside of the colon. Over 10 years or more, this little growth will become bigger, and the bigger it gets, the higher the risk it has of turning into cancer. That means if you have a polyp now, it doesn’t mean that you are going to get cancer next year. In fact, most people don’t. It’s just because it’s allowed to grow over many years and then develop into cancer. One surefire way of reducing the incidence of colon cancer is to remove polyps in the colon, which is usually done through a colonoscopy.
During a colonoscopy, the specialist will put a camera into the colon. It visualizes the internal lining of the colon and looks for polyps. It’s better to find polyps while they are still small because then they are easier to extract. So far, this is the only procedure that allows doctors to find small polyps. That is why this may be the most accurate and the gold standard for detecting and removing growths and preventing the disease.
Do Not Hesitate To Get Tested
Colon cancer is a deadly disease that is preventable and curable if you catch it early enough. While colonoscopy is currently the best way to get rid of polyps, any type of colorectal cancer exam is better than nothing. Remember that there is every reason to get screened. Explore your options with your trusted health care provider.