When it comes to medical guidelines, it’s always in your best interest to keep up with major research developments and understand how these new recommendations could affect your health. The American Cancer Society recently made a notable change in their recommendations about colorectal cancer screening.

What’s The Big Change?

It has been recommended for many years that those at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin regular colonoscopies beginning at age 50. The term “average risk” is notable, as there may be reasons to have colonoscopies even earlier, which can be determined with the help of your doctor. Elevated risk factors for the disease include being amongst certain racial or ethnic groups, having a family history of cancer, including colorectal cancer, and having a personal history of other GI disorders like inflammatory bowel disease. These are the risk factors that are out of our control to change, although an additional set of risks that you have some control over include diet and exercise (or lack of these healthy habits), smoking, and being overweight or obese.

While this shift in screening guidelines is important, it’s also important that you understand your body and recognize changes. Colorectal cancer often doesn’t even show symptoms until it’s in advanced stages when the disease is much harder to treat. Some signs may include an unexplained change in bowel habits that last more than a few days, rectal bleeding, persistent stomach cramping, weakness and fatigue, unintended weight loss, a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that isn’t relieved after having one, and dark-colored stools.

What Was Behind The Change?

A study released in 2017 showed a notable rise in the rate of colorectal cancer amongst young adults in the 20-39 age group. Since colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, new screening research has been vital in learning how to lower those numbers. This new recommendation for screening could aid in that shift. Colonoscopies are the number one tool in the fight against colorectal cancer. Not only can they discover the disease in early stages prior to showing symptoms, they can actually find precancerous polyps, which can be removed and monitored for progress.

So Should I Make An Appointment?

Insurance companies have not announced if they will cover screening prior to age 50. If you fall into the 45-50 age group and want to learn more about the new guidelines, as well as assess your own personal risk for colorectal cancer, book an appointment with Needham Gastroenterology Associates so we can help you determine your personal needs and navigate the new recommendations.