Early Screening For Colon Cancer Could Save Lives

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If you're in your mid-forties, you might want to start thinking about scheduling a colorectal cancer screening, according new guidelines announced by the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Cedrek McFadden is a physician with GHS.

Virtual colonoscopy is an American Cancer Society-recommended screening exam for those at average risk for the disease. "About 8 to 10% of colon cancers are now actually in the age group of 40-50".

New guidelines released Wednesday recommend most USA adults start colon cancer screening earlier, at age 45 instead of 50.

The rate of colorectal cancer among the 50-to-54 age group, even with a decline over the past several years, remains higher than among those who are 45 to 49; that partly reflects the start of screening at 50, which leads to detection of the disease and allows people in the older group to be identified as having colorectal cancer. Routine screenings can also help doctors find colon cancer early when it is easier to treat. "Whichever way we can get a patient to get tested for this cancer is the right one to do", said Dr. Anthony.

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Chang, of MD Anderson, said he thought that 45 years old "makes sense" for the start of screening.

Researchers with the cancer society found a 51 percent increase in colorectal cancer among those under the age of 50 since 1994.

The ACS did recommend that any positive results on noncolonoscopy screening tests, which generally test for the presence of blood in the stool, should be followed up with a colonoscopy, in which doctors visually inspect the colon with a camera.

A colonoscopy is not the only effective screening tool. But overall, getting screened using any of these tests reduces mortality rates from colon and rectal cancers when compared with not getting screened.

O'Neil said it is still not clear why more younger people are being diagnosed.

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"We're deeply concerned about this trend", says Dr. Richard Wender of the American Cancer Society.

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. "However, if one day getting screened saves my life, I'll do it - once a year, every year if I have to". That means researchers still need more data on the effects of screening people at these ages to better understand how the practice affects colorectal cancer diagnoses and patients.

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.

The same tests are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel that reviews evidence and issues advice for a variety of screenings and treatments.

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