American Cancer Society Lowers Age for Colon Cancer Screening to 45

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On Wednesday, the American Cancer Society updated its guidelines for colorectal cancer screenings.

The American Cancer Society has put this recommendation out because of rising cases of colon cancer for people under the age of 50.

Dr. Cedrek McFadden is a physician with GHS.

The American Cancer Society has lowered the age to start screening for colon cancer.

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"If we find it in later stages, survival is less than 20%", McFadden explained.

Meanwhile, colon cancer rates in people older than 55 are declining, largely due to screening and removal of precancerous polyps. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of colorectal cancer like blood in the stool, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss of 10 or more pounds or nausea should talk to their doctor to be screen, Lee said.

But about one-third of people over 50 never get screened. That change has been attributed to healthy lifestyle changes and more widespread screening. About 50,000 people are expected to die of colorectal cancer this year. Unlike classic optical colonoscopy, no sedation is needed, so virtual CT colon cancer screening can be performed in the middle of a work day. That produced a result that showed the lifesaving potential of earlier screening, the group said. Early detection can help prevent colon cancer from forming; it is up to 40% preventable.

Another option is a multitarget stool DNA test, which is done every three years and involves collecting a sample at home and sending it in.

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For colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society didn't push one screening option over another but listed various options: High-sensitivity stool tests, created to detect blood in feces, which need to be administered every year; a DNA stool test, sold under the brand name Cologuard, every three years; a colonoscopy, every 10 years; or a virtual colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, every five years. Every five years, a person could do a computed tomography colonography test (like a CAT scan) or a flexible sigmoidoscopy scan (essentially using a tube with a light and camera on it). The recommendation to begin screening at age 45 years is a qualified recommendation, while there is a strong recommendation for starting regular screening in adults aged 50 years and older.

The underlying cause of the spike in cases among younger people is unknown but O'Neil says obesity and diet are linked to colon cancer.

As younger patients get screened, there will be more data on how doing so affects rates of colon and rectal cancers.

But he noted that younger people are also at increased risk. He believes, eventually, the recommended age will be even younger.

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