Colorectal cancer – cancer of the large intestine – is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, claiming the lives of about 50,000 Americans every year. Now, new screening guidelines aim to change that.
The American Cancer Society now recommends that adults who are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should be screened for the disease starting at age 45. This recommendation, which is five years earlier than previous guidelines, comes in response to news that more and more young people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
“I applaud the new screening guidelines,” said Paul Savoca, MD, colorectal surgeon at Reston Hospital Center. “I, like many of my colleagues, have seen an increase in the number of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a young age. Increased screening will help diagnose these cancers earlier, which will translate into better long-term outcomes for patients.”
The rates of colon cancer and rectal cancer have been steadily increasing in younger adults – rates have been rising by one to three percent per year among people in their 20s and 30s, with increases also seen in all adults under 50. Without regular screening, younger people tend to be diagnosed after the cancer has reached a later stage. Like all cancers, later detection is associated with worse long-term outcomes and reduced survival chances.
No one knows for sure why colorectal cancer rates are increasing among younger people. Over the same time period, the incidence of colorectal cancer in people older than 55 has decreased. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include smoking, a family history of the disease, obesity, lack of exercise, and a diet high in processed meats.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include changes in bowel habits and rectal bleeding. If you experience these symptoms, and they don’t resolve within a few days, see your doctor. Don’t be afraid to be your own advocate and ask about colorectal cancer screening. Screening options include stool tests, virtual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and traditional colonoscopy. Talk with your primary care doctor about when and how you should be screened.
Reston Hospital Center offers a full range of services related to diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care for colorectal cancer. We perform colorectal diagnosis and treatments, including colonoscopy, to prevent cancer by removing polyps and to address related conditions. Reston Hospital Center’s robust minimally invasive surgery program is especially well suited for colorectal surgeries. Our highly trained specialists remove colorectal cancers and reconnect intestinal tissue, resulting in less post-procedure pain and faster recovery. Learn more aboutcolorectal cancer treatment at Reston Hospital Center.
Know your colorectal cancer risk – and take steps to reduce it.