Patient, experts push for earlier colon cancer screenings

The American Cancer Society has released new guidelines about screening for colon cancer

The new guidelines also call for screening through age 85 rather than 75.

"Behind these numbers are real people and real faces, and all of us in the colorectal cancer world and all the gastroenterologists and all the oncologists have been seeing more and more young people who develop this disease", said Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society, who oversaw the development of the new guidelines.

Dr. Cedrek McFadden is a physician with GHS.

Although the overall number of colorectal cancer deaths per year has been falling, the number of cancers in people younger than 50 continues to rise, according to the society.

Colon and rectal cancer disease rates are rising quickly for young people - between 1991 and 2014, rectal cancer rates for people between the ages of 20 and 49 doubled.

The American Cancer Society urged people to talk with their doctors about which kind of screening to pursue, based on risk factors like family history, diet, alcohol consumption and exercise patterns.

He said a screening doesn't always involve being probed.

Some screenings include a colonoscopy and multi-targeted stool DNA test.

Other groups, including the independent and volunteer U.S. Preventative Services Task Force of specialists, maintain their recommendation that screenings start at 50.

Researchers with the cancer society found a 51 percent increase in colorectal cancer among those under the age of 50 since 1994. The American College of Radiology (ACR) has issued a statement of its own, highlighting the benefits of virtual colonoscopy, an ACS-approved colorectal cancer screening method.

The ACS paper said colonoscopies, visual tests and a high-sensitivity stool-based test are effective means of detecting colorectal cancer.

Experts say it is unclear why colon cancer rates are on the rise in younger people. A potential harm from screening tests also remains unclear: For instance, harm can be caused by people being wrongly allocated to the risk group, causing unnecessary psychological stress.

Now that the American Cancer Society has made this recommendation, Dr. Matthiesen says other groups will likely follow suit. "However, if one day getting screened saves my life, I'll do it - once a year, every year if I have to". Prior recommendations to catch slow-moving malignancies advised the start of regular checks at age 50, but a paper published by the ACS Wednesday said Americans should jump on it sooner.

These new recommendations are only for people who don't have an increased risk.

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