Here’s the age at which you should be screened for colon cancer, according to new guidelines
Men and women should actually be screened at an earlier age for colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The organization just released new guidelines recommending those at average risk be screened starting at age 45. The previously recommended age was 50 years.
“Colorectal cancer can be prevented if it’s caught early enough,” says Dr. Andrew Albert, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “And we’re seeing an increasing number of cases in people under 50 who had never been screened before. Changing the guidelines to account for a younger population will help us catch cancer earlier and lead to better health outcomes for those affected.”
Research from the ACS has revealed that the death rate for colorectal cancer has been increasing in adults aged 20-54 for at least the last decade. Although the recommended age for screening has been lowered to 45, those at higher risk for colorectal cancer may need to be screened even earlier.
“A person may be at higher risk if they have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps or a history of inflammatory bowel disease,” says Dr. Albert. “Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and the right time to get screened.”
So, what does a screening entail? Dr. Joaquin Estrada, a colorectal surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic, says there are a variety of screening tests available.
“Screening colonoscopies are the most effective way to screen for colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Estrada. “If polyps are found during a colonoscopy, they can be removed right away. Another option could be a stool-based test you can take at home that checks your bowels for signs of cancer.”
The most important takeaway: Any type of screening is better than no screening.
“I always tell people the most common symptom of colorectal cancer is actually no symptom at all,” says Dr. Estrada. “The most important thing you can do is get screened when recommended. Your doctor can help determine which test might be best for you.”
Take our Colorectal Health Assessment to learn more about your estimated lifetime risk.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.