The U.S Preventive Services Task Force has released new guidelines recommending colonoscopies at the age of 45 instead of 50.
The revised guidance follows 2016 recommendations from the American Cancer Society, lowering the screening age to 45. A concerning increase in colorectal cancer has been seen among people under 50 years old since the mid-1990s. Despite the American Cancer Society’s recommendation to lower the age two years ago, until now, insurance would not pay for a screening before 50.
Dr. Toufic Kachaamy, Medical Director of Gastroenterology at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America hailed this move saying he believed it would save many lives.
“The reason is the incidence of colon cancer is on the decline over the age of 50 and is on the rise before the age of 50,” said Dr. Kachaamy.
Reports show that eleven percent of colon cancer and 15% of rectal cancers in 2020 (occurred) among patients younger than 50 years, compared with 5% and 9%, respectively, in 2010.
Medical professionals believe that lowering the recommended age will make colorectal cancer screening accessible and affordable to millions of more people in the United States. American health insurance groups are required to cover, at no charge to the patient, any service the USPSTF recommends with sufficient evidence, regardless of the cost.
This means insurers will be required to cover preventive procedures such as colonoscopies and stool tests designed to detect colon cancer in early stages.
Many gastroenterologists prefer to screen using colonoscopies, but studies find little difference in cancer outcomes among the different technologies.
Colonoscopies, considered the definitive test, are typically done once a decade and involve general anesthesia and a day’s worth of unpleasant preparation. Fecal tests are usually done annually, but require no preparation and might be better at catching faster-moving cancers. If blood is found in the stool with a fecal test, then the person needs a follow-up colonoscopy.
Colorectal cancer – which includes colon and rectal cancer – is expected to cause nearly 53,000 deaths during 2021, according to the American Cancer Society.
While deaths from colon and rectal cancers have been declining for several decades due to improved screening and treatment measures, deaths among young people have been increasing slightly in recent years, according to researchers.
How the Procedure Works:
-A fiber optic camera the size of approximately 100-120 centimeters in length is navigated to the end of the colon.
-At end of the colon, the camera is slowly withdrawn while examining the entire mucosa of the skin of the colon looking for growths or lesions that are called polyps and polyps or precancerous lesions.
The vast majority of colon cancers begin is polyps. It takes approximately 7-10 years from normal to colon cancer.
Some of the signs of Colon Cancer include rectal bleeding, dramatic changes in bowel habits that was persistent, unintentional weight loss. Lab tests showing iron deficiencies or anemia may also be things you want to investigate further.
You can learn more about colorectal cancer at Colorectal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments | CTCA (cancercenter.com)