Several well-known medical entities have updated their colon cancer screening recommendations from age 50 to 45 for those with average risk. Recently, both the American Cancer Society and the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) have made these changes due to the increasing numbers of young adults being diagnosed with colon cancer. These routine screenings can catch colon cancer sooner making it easier to treat and increasing the survival rates, so now, for colon cancer screenings: 45 is the new 50.
Sadly, awareness of diseases can be highlighted by the death of a well-known celebrity. Chadwick Boseman, the star of the popular movie series Black Panther died at the age of 43 from colon cancer in 2020. Most were shocked since he seemed like a healthy young man, but he had been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in 2016.
Not only did this revelation spotlight the fact that more younger adults are being diagnosed with colon cancer, but also that Black Americans are more likely to be diagnosed and die than whites.
In addition, diagnosis and death in those under age 50 has increased, especially in those ages 18 to 35, while declining in those over age 65. No longer is this just a disease of seniors.
Average vs High Risk Adults
If you are at average risk, you should begin regular screening now at age 45 instead of 50. So what is the difference between being at average risk and high risk?
Higher risk patients should begin screening even earlier than age 45, but no later. Talk with your gastroenterologist about your family history and your bowel habits.
The following are considered high risk factors for developing early onset colon cancer:
- Having a family history of colorectal cancer or other cancers
- Having certain genetic mutations
- Having a personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- Having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Having had radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a previous cancer
In addition, if you have a suspected or confirmed hereditary cancer syndrome like FAP, or familial adenomatous polyposis, or Lynch Syndrome, you are at a higher risk to develop colon cancer.
Symptoms And Early Onset Colon Cancer
Common symptoms of colon cancer include blood in the stool, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, decreased appetite, bloating, a new need to strain passing stools, and weight loss.
Unfortunately, those adults with early onset colon cancer are diagnosed with later stages of this disease because they ignore them and assume some of the symptoms are not serious or are caused by some other benign reason. Talk with your gastroenterologist, and don’t let time pass if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
If you are of average risk, there are several at home screening tests you can perform yourself. They are simple and non-invasive.
If you fit into the category of being at higher risk, you may require “precision screening” based on the level of your risk factors. Although it might be possible to do at home tests, most likely you will need to be screened by a colonoscopy. Finding and removing polyps in the early stages of their growth is what protects you from developing colon cancer in the future.
Follow the recommendations of the professionals at Philadelphia Gastroenterology Consultants about which type of screening is best for you.
Contact Philadelphia Gastroenterology Consultants at (215) 742-9900 if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of colon cancer or if you are ready to begin screening for colorectal cancer.