New guidelines recommend earlier colon cancer screening

New guidelines recommend earlier colon cancer screening
Updated: May. 31, 2018 at 6:40 PM CDT
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(WAFB) - In recent years, colon and rectal surgeon, Dr. Louis Barfield, has noticed a concerning trend. The patients on his operating table suffering from colorectal cancer are younger and younger.

Barfield says his practice at Mary Bird Perkins Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center even treated a 19-year-old in the last few years. That's why he was thrilled to hear the American Cancer Society recommend that colorectal cancer screening should start at age 45. People with a family history should begin screening sooner.

"We're definitely seeing higher cancer rates in many of our patients," said Barfield.

While it's not clear why colon cancer rates have gone up among people under the age of 50, Barfield says one thing is clear: colon cancer is a very survivable cancer if it's caught early. Barfield says colonoscopies are the gold standard of cancer screening because it's also a preventative test. During the procedure, doctors can remove any polyps found in the colon before they turn cancerous.

However, there are several different options available, including genetic testing and stool testing. Barfield added it's important to pay attention to any symptoms, including bleeding, blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, or stomach pain. If you show any symptoms, regardless of your age or family history, you should talk to your primary care doctor immediately, said Barfield.

Full recommendations from the American Cancer Society include:

  • People at average risk of colorectal cancer should start regular screening at age 45
  • People who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75
  • People ages 76 through 85 should make a decision with their medical provider about whether to be screened, based on their own personal preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history
  • People over 85 should no longer get colorectal cancer screening

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