Get screened sooner, not later, for colorectal cancer

New guideline from American Cancer Society lowers screening age

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. and the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women? More than 50,000 patients die of the disease each year.

That's why the American Cancer Society (ACS) now is recommending that people with an average risk of the disease get screened earlier than previously recommended. The ACS now says people who meet the criteria below should be screened at age 45, not 50.

People are considered to be at average risk if they do not have:

  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
  • A personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer

According to its research findings published this year in a clinical cancer journal, the ACS believes earlier screenings will result in more lives saved from colorectal cancer.

Ron G. Landmann, MD, colon and rectal surgeon and chief of Colorectal Surgery at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, wholeheartedly agrees.

"Despite the tremendous improvements in survival we have seen with screening for and treatment of colorectal polyps or cancer over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer in the younger patient population – those under the age of 50," said Dr. Landmann.

"Signs of bleeding, pain or a change in bowel habits should be investigated early. In many cases, a colonoscopy can prevent a colon cancer from developing and will save your life."

Testing and treatment options

There are two main types of testing options for colorectal cancer: a fecal DNA stool-based test and a visual exam of the colon and rectum, commonly known as a colonoscopy. Your health care provider will help you decide which test is the best option for you.

In the event of an abnormal test, your primary care provider or specialist can help you choose the appropriate surgical procedure. The type of surgery used depends on the stage or extent of the cancer, where it is, and the goals of treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy may occasionally be needed in addition to surgery.

In the U.S., the large majority of colorectal cancer procedures are performed using an open approach, where a surgeon uses a long midline cut in the abdomen to gain access to the bowel. This surgical approach usually has a long, usually painful recovery.

Some oncology surgeons use modern technology to limit the length of the cut during bowel surgery. One of the benefits of these laparoscopic or minimally invasive robotic surgeries is that recovery time is nearly cut in half

An expert in robot-assisted colorectal surgery, Dr. Landmann is experienced in these operations that not only help with recovery time, but lead to improved outcomes and survival, and help you quickly return to your normal, everyday activities.

"Our development and experience with newer robotic surgical techniques allows for best outcomes in our patients. In most cases, robot-assisted colorectal surgery is available and your surgeon can help decide if it is right for you."

In 2017, 135,430 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. But thanks to early detection, there are more than 1 million colon cancer survivors living in the U.S. today.

For more information on colonoscopies or to schedule an appointment, visit Baptist Primary Care or call 202-4YOU (4968).