Why Was the Colorectal Cancer Screening Age Lowered?

February 24, 2021 Posted in: Digestive Health , Oncology

Colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer when caught early. There are a variety of techniques used to screen for precancerous growths, called polyps, in the colon or rectum. By catching these polyps early, doctors are capable of removing the growths before they turn into cancer. The screening age for colon cancer has been lowered from 50 to 45 years old due to an increase in colon cancer diagnoses in young adults.

New risk factors are contributing to younger people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the current discussions surrounding the causes of early-onset colorectal cancer involve three related factors: diet, bacteria in the gut, and inflammation. Obesity, exercise, and medications (such as antibiotics) can all affect what goes on your colon, so it is important to pay attention to what you put in your body and stay physically active.

There is a variety of screening techniques available to suit your needs.

There are a variety of screening techniques available to test for colorectal cancer, some of which are more invasive than others. There are benefits and downsides to each test, but the most important thing is to get screened. Here are the different screening techniques according to the American Cancer Society:

Stool-based tests:

  • Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
  • Multitarget stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every three years

Visual exams:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • CT colonoscopy (virtual colonoscopy) every five years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every five years

“The most common screening technique we use is a colonoscopy. It involves a tiny camera on the end of a long flexible tube. It’s inserted into the body, and we use that tube to look at the walls of the large intestine and rectum, looking for these polyps. And our goal is to biopsy them and hopefully remove them before they become cancerous.”

Dr. Jason McKnight
Family Medicine Physician
St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network

How frequently you receive these screenings also depends on what your doctor finds during each test.

People at high risk of colorectal cancer should begin screening before the age of 45.

If you are at high risk of colorectal cancer, it is very important to start screening early and pay close attention to symptoms such as blood in your stool, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. According to the American Cancer Society, you are at higher risk if you have:

  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • A family history of colon, bowel, or rectal cancer
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • A suspected or confirmed colorectal cancer syndrome
  • A personal history of receiving radiation to the abdomen to treat a prior cancer

Talk to your primary care physician about when you should begin screening. Schedule your colorectal appointment with St. Joseph Health today.

National Cancer Institute | Why Is Colorectal Cancer Rising Rapidly among Young Adults?
Cancer Care | Colorectal Cancer: The Importance of Screening and Early Detection
American College of Radiology | Updated USPSTF Colorectal Screening Guidelines Would Help Save Lives
American Cancer Society | When Should You Start Getting Screened for Colorectal Cancer?

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