The American Cancer Society recently updated its guideline for colorectal cancer screening. The organization is now recommending that screening should begin at age 45 for people at average risk. Previously, screening was recommended for individuals 50 and older – and at 45 and older for African Americans.
If you have a higher than average risk, you may need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often or get specific tests.
Those in good health with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should be sure to get regular colorectal cancer screenings through the age of 75. Anyone between the ages of 76 and 85 should discuss whether to be screened with their doctor. If you are 85, you do not need to be screened for colorectal cancer.
In addition to changing its age recommendation, the cancer society also produced a list of the pros and cons of tests that help prevent and find colorectal cancer, and it stresses the importance of individual preference and choice in testing options. Options can include stool-based tests and a CT colonography, also known as a virtual colonoscopy. Most, however, believe the gold standard remains a colonoscopy. Those who receive abnormal test results should followup with their doctor.
The American Cancer Society made these changes after analyzing data. Statistics showed that new cases of colorectal cancer are occurring at an increasing rate among younger adults. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer overall and the second leading cause of cancer death. The cancer starts in the colon or rectum, which are parts of the large intestine.
Dr. J. Michael Parker, a colorectal surgeon with the Middlesex Hospital Surgical Alliance, says colorectal screening can be very effective, and he says the new guidelines bring attention to colorectal cancer.
Dr. Parker’s view
Dr. Parker recommends that patients contact their insurance companies before being screened. Coverage may change depending on the insurance carrier, especially if individuals are now encouraged to begin screening at an earlier age, he says.
Note: The American Cancer Society is one of several organizations that make recommendations regarding colorectal screening. These organizations do not always make the same recommendations. As a result, it is always important to talk to your doctor.
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