Dr. Nilofer Saba Azad, associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, agrees with the newly updated guidelines. It used existing data to estimate the effects of screening at age 45.
The change in procedure is based on new information about a marked increase in the incidences of colorectal cancer, particularly rectal cancer, among younger individuals.
In 2014, 43 percent of colorectal cancer cases in those under 50 were in adults ages 45 to 49, according to Rebecca L. Siegel, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society and the lead author of several reports showing a rise in colorectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s. "We believe that Cologuard's performance, coupled with the fact that it is non-invasive and performed conveniently at home with no time off work and without any special prep requirements, would make it an ideal screening choice for individuals ages 45 to 50".
The American Cancer Society now suggests starting at 45 instead of 50.
Yet "there are many ways you can screen for colon cancer beyond colonoscopy, and we can find a way no matter how squeamish people are", Azad said.
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The group is in the process of updating its screening guidelines, a spokesperson said. Patients who test positive for signs of cancer on a non-colonoscopy screening method should follow up with a colonoscopy quickly, the group said.
A colonoscopy is not the only effective screening tool.
Some red flags include a persistent change in bowel habits; abdominal pain or cramping; stool that is dark or has visible blood; and unintended weight loss. Colorectal cancer has not been linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause anal cancer, as well as cervical, throat, penile and other types of cancer. But he noted that younger people are also at increased risk.
At this point she's determined to focus on her family, not her prognosis. "It's very curable when we catch it early", Cercek said.
With colon cancer being the second leading cause of death in the USA, the American Cancer Society is now advising that you get your colonoscopies sooner.
The guidelines, released Wednesday, were published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.