Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Colon Cancer Screening

Colon Cancer is very common. Despite declining death rates over the past two decades it is the third most common cause of cancer death in the United States. Most guidelines recommend initiating screening at age 50 for average risk individuals, and at age 45 for African Americans. For individuals at high risk, screening should begin at an earlier age. Both the United States Preventative Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society have recently recommended lowering the screening age for average risk individuals to age 45. Many studies have shown a proven benefit for screening in the prevention of Colon Cancer.

Why is Colon Cancer screening so popular and so important?

Why has the American College of Gastroenterology set a goal to have 80% of all eligible patients screened for Colon Cancer by the year 2020?

Because Colon Cancer is a very preventable cancer. Here is why:

In the 1990’s it was discovered that, unlike most other malignancies, Colon Cancer first originates from a benign growth and only over time (usually several years) does this growth potentially develop into a full blown malignancy. The benign growth is termed “polyp”. What this means is that an individual can be harboring one or even several of these polyps, and have absolutely no symptoms, placing him or her at risk of developing cancer. What it also means is that in essence we have a “window of opportunity” to be proactive and search for these polyps and remove them while they are still benign. This is the rationale behind performing screening colonoscopies. This is how Colonoscopy saves lives, and in fact, statistics show that such screening strategies have reduced the incidence of Colon Cancer in the United States.

At what age is Colon Cancer screening recommended?

As noted above, average risk individuals, male or female, should have their first screening exam at age 50. More recently the age recommendation was lowered to age 45 due to the worrisome trend of increasing reports of Colon Cancer developing in younger individuals. There are exceptions to this age recommendation. For example, individuals with a family history of Colon Cancer or polyps, or certain other hereditary conditions need to be screened at earlier ages. This is not an all-inclusive list and it is highly advisable that you discuss the optimal timing for screening with your physician or healthcare provider.

At Gastroenterology Medical Associates our physicians and professional staff have vast experience in evaluating each individual situation and we invite you to contact us and visit our offices for a consultation. Most insurances and the US Congress recognize the importance and effectiveness of Colon Cancer prevention and cover the entire cost of the examination. For eligible patients we have a program whereby Colonoscopy can be performed without the initial office consultation. Please call our office or complete the “Colonoscopy Form” on our website if you are interested in taking advantage of this convenience.