Medical Experts Advise Starting Colorectal Cancer Screenings at Age 45

by Delilah Newton | May 18, 2022

Most cancer screening tests, like those for breast and prostate cancer, help healthcare providers find and treat the disease early. 

Some tests for colorectal cancer, including colonoscopies, go farther. They can actually remove abnormal growths in your colon and rectum. These tests don’t just spot cancer, they may prevent it.

Now, a group of experts is advising people get these tests at younger ages. Here’s why, and what to do about it.

A Question of Age
Colorectal cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow and divide in the lower part of your digestive tract. As with most cancers, your risk of colorectal cancer increases with age. People ages 65 to 74 are most likely to develop the disease.

However, in recent years, more younger adults are being diagnosed. Now, about one in 10 cases of colorectal cancer occurs in those ages 50 and younger.

Armed with this evidence, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force changed its recommendations. In the past, they recommended starting colonoscopies or other tests at age 50. But now, they say, adults ages 45 to 50 can benefit, too.

Understanding Your Options
Colonoscopies and a related test, the sigmoidoscopy, both prevent cancer. In both, a flexible, lighted tube is used to see inside your colon. Abnormal growths can be removed in part of your colon with a sigmoidoscopy, or from the entire colon with a colonoscopy.

You do have other choices, though. There are less invasive screening tests for colorectal cancer, including:

Stool-based tests. These check for blood or DNA in your poop, or stool.
Virtual colonoscopy. A special X-ray produces pictures of your colon and rectum.
The new guidelines say adults ages 45 to 75 should get one of the following:

  • Stool-based tests every one to three years
  • Virtual colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Some combination of these

If any results are abnormal, you’ll need more testing. That includes a colonoscopy if you didn’t already have one.

Talk with your provider about your risks, preferences, and the best tests for you. Together, you can make a plan to protect your health.

Sign up for a screening today with our quick and easy online form.

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Have Questions?
If you’re unsure which screening option is best for you, reach out to CRH Gastroenterology at 812-372-8680.

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