Experts urge ‘don’t delay screening for colon cancer’ as life-saving preventionApr 18, 2021
U.S. health agencies announce screenings for colon cancer should begin at age 45
Colon cancer is a silent and often deadly disease, killing more than 50,000 each year in the United States. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. Yet, it is largely preventable with screenings and curable if detected early. According to the American Cancer Society, the incidence of colon cancer has been increasing in younger people. From 2012 through 2016, colon cancer increased every year by 2 percent in people younger than 50 and 1 percent in people ages 50 to 64.
The American Cancer Society and the U.S Preventive Task Force recently announced new recommendations that screenings for colon cancer should now begin at age 45, which is five years earlier than previously thought. As the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. coincides with Colon Cancer Awareness Month, physicians are urging people not to delay their screenings. Nearly 1 in 3 individuals are not up to date with their colon cancer screenings and that number could be higher since the pandemic began.
James Prieto, M.D., a colorectal surgeon with the Baptist Physicians Network, emphasizes that holding off on seeing a doctor, getting screened or going to the ER when needed can result in a greater risk of complications, disability and lengthier recovery times if conditions are left undiagnosed or untreated.
“The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to be screened regularly beginning at age 45,” Dr. Prieto said. Our clinics and hospitals follow COVID safety procedures so it’s safe for anyone to be seen. A phone call to connect with a doctor and a screening could save your life,” Dr. Prieto said.
Some individuals are at higher risk for colon cancer if they have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, a personal history of Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis that cause chronic inflammation of the small intestine or colon. Other risk factors for colon cancer include: obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking cigarettes and excessive consumption of alcohol.
Colon cancer also disproportionately affects the Black community, where the rates are the highest of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S. African Americans are about 20 percent more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40 percent more likely to die from it than most other groups. The reasons for the differences are complex, but they largely reflect differences in risk factors and in health care access.
John Winston, M.D., an African American colorectal surgeon who practices with the Baptist Health System, emphasizes that holding off on seeing a doctor, getting screened or going to the ER when needed can result in a greater risk of complications, disability and lengthier recovery times if conditions are left undiagnosed or untreated.
“The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to be screened regularly starting at age 45,” Dr. Winston said. “We want to encourage the community to connect with a healthcare provider who can evaluate them carefully,” he said.
Early detection and treatment results in a 90 percent survival rate and that 60 percent of colorectal cancer-related deaths could have been prevented with a screening.
Sources: American Cancer Society and Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy