If you’re thinking a colonoscopy is a test for old people, think again. In 2018, the American Cancer Society altered their recommendation for timing of a first-time colon cancer screening from age 50 to age 45, for those at average risk of cancer. The change was directly tied to the rising number of younger adults being diagnosed with colorectal cancers – including many with no family history of the disease.
“As the second most common cause of cancer death, colorectal cancer is now being diagnosed at a younger age and at a more advanced stage. Yet according to the American Cancer Society, 40% of Americans 45 years and older are not up to date with their screenings.” said board-certified gastroenterologist, Anish Chopra, M.D. “And that is disturbing news, because we know that with regular screenings, such as colonoscopies, colorectal cancer can be caught early and more easily cured.”
The ACS guidance also includes very specific precautions for those at increased risk of colon cancer. For these patients, the physician may advise initial screening BEFORE age 45, being screened more often, and/or using specific screening methods to ensure polyps are found and removed early, before they can become cancerous. These risk factors include:A personal or family history of colorectal cancer, or of certain types of polyps
- A personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- A history of radiation in the abdomen or pelvis, in treatment of previous cancer(s)
- A genetic and hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome
“While it is one of the most common forms of cancer, colon cancer is also highly preventable and treatable. Healthy diet and lifestyle choices, combined with proactive screening and prompt removal of any polyps, can dramatically reduce your risk of contracting this disease,” said Dr. Chopra. “Also, never ignore changes of any kind in your bowel habits – be prepared to share details with your physician, including frequency, consistency and any type of discomfort or dysfunction.”
Many symptoms of colorectal cancer can also be caused by other conditions, according to the National Cancer Institute. Because colorectal cancer is more easily cured when detected early, you should see your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Blood in your stool, bleeding from your rectum or dark stool
- Changes in bowel habits, including constipation, diarrhea or narrow stool lasting more than a couple of days
- Persistent feeling that a bowel movement is necessary, even after having one
- Unexplained weakness, fatigue or weight loss
To learn more about digestive health and what to expect during a colonoscopy, visit NWHealthIN.com.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Chopra in Valparaiso or Michigan City, call 219-464-9507.
About Northwest Health
Northwest Health is a comprehensive healthcare system committed to providing communities in Northwest Indiana with high-quality, accessible healthcare—from highly specialized care and surgical services to more routine primary care. The system of more than 60 access points includes three hospitals, five emergency departments, urgent care centers, outpatient surgery centers, an ambulance service, and physician offices. Northwest Health – Porter is owned, in part, by physicians. A team of more than 3,000 employees work together with the more than 700 physicians on its medical staffs. For more information, visit NWHealthIN.com.