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Colon cancer trends bring treatment changes

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 1:30 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - It’s the third leading cause of cancer death and in recent years colorectal cancer has affected younger Americans. That’s why the recommended age for screening has now been lowered.

Gastroenterologist Dr. Peter Stanich calls it a troubling trend.

“There’s been an increasing rate of colon cancer in people under the age of 50,” said Stanich.

Ten-and-a-half percent of new colorectal cancer cases are in people younger than 50, and cases are climbing among adults between the ages of 40 and 49.

“We don’t know exactly why that is, but we’ve been tracking that for at least over the past five years.”

This week, the U.S. preventive services task force lowered the recommended age to start screening for colon and rectal cancers from 50 to 45.

Colonoscopies are recommended every five years, with stool testing every one to three years.

“The reason that’s important is that insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid, have to adjust too,” said Stanich.

That means screenings for an asymptomatic person of average risk in that age group, with no prior history of colorectal cancer, history of colon or rectal polyps and no family history of genetic disorders, will now be covered by most private insurance plans with no copay.

Dr. Stanich, who works with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says it’ll save lives.

“Both by preventing colon cancer or finding it early enough where the treatment can be as easy enough as a single surgery.”

The task force also recommended selective screening among adults ages 76 to 85 years.

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