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You might need that colonoscopy sooner than you thought

Is it time for a colonoscopy?

The long-standing recommendation of starting colorectal screening at age 50 is no more. The American Cancer Society’s newly updated guidelines for colon and rectal cancer screening advises adults who are at average risk to get screened as early as 45.

Why now?

Colorectal cancer rates are on the rise among Gen X and millennials, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says. Between the mid-1980s and 2013, colon cancer rates increased about one to two percent per year for people in their 20s and 30s. And rectal cancer rates climbed even faster in recent decades—at an annual rate of about three percent for 20- and 30-year-olds. All in all, it’s estimated that 16,450 new cases of colon or rectal cancers will be diagnosed this year in Americans under 50.

Who’s in the “high-risk” category?

According to the American Cancer Society, people at a higher or increased risk are those with:

  • A strong family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • A known family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
  • A personal history of radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer

What tests are available?

Several tests that can be used to screen for colorectal cancer, and they can be divided into two main groups, according to the American Cancer Society:

  • Stool-based tests. This less-invasive option requires providing your doctor with a stool sample. The stool is tested for tiny amounts of blood (which can indicate the presence of cancer) as well as DNA biomarkers and precancerous cells. These tests can typically be done with an at-home kit but need to be done more often than structural exams.
  • Visual (structural) exams. These tests allow your doctor to take a look at the structure of the inside of the colon and rectum for any abnormal areas that might be cancer or polyps. Examples include a colonoscopy (when your doctor inserts a colonoscope into the anus) and a CT colonography (an advanced CT scan of the colon and rectum). These tests don’t have to be done as often as stool-based tests but require more preparation and can come with certain risks.

There’s no “best” test for one person. It’s important that you speak to your doctor about the pros and cons of each test and which screening method is best for you.

Time to get tested? Make an appointment with the experts at Gastroenterology & Associates of Pensacola. Call 850-474-8988 or visit them online at