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Colorectal Cancer Screening Age Lowered

Following guidelines can greatly reduce your risk

With colorectal cancer cases on the rise among young people, the screening guidelines were recently lowered to age 45, rather than the previous 50 years of age.

In 2020, 12 percent of colorectal cancer cases in the U.S. were in individuals under the age of 50. It claimed the life of Chadwick Boseman, star of the film “Black Panther,” at the age of 43. African Americans are 20 percent more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40 percent more likely to die from it than most other racial/ethnic groups, according to the American Cancer Society.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men and women combined and was expected to cause nearly 53,000 deaths in 2021 (American Cancer Society). Yet, these deaths are highly preventable with early detection.

The most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (2020) shows colorectal cancer incidence rate (2012-2016) for Calvert was higher than state and national averages. It is the fourth most common cancer among CalvertHealth patients.

The good news is the death rate from colorectal cancer is dropping in large part due to early detection resulting from removal of polyps during screenings before they can develop into cancers.

Dr. Bilal Ahmed said there are more than 200,000 cases of colorectal cancer each year and the stage in which the cancer is identified determines the prognosis, success, and need for chemotherapy. If the cancer is found in the precancerous stage or the earliest stage, the chances of success are high.

“It’s very important to get the screening done and diagnose it early,” Dr. Ahmed said. Community members are urged not to delay colorectal screenings, even during the pandemic.

The American Cancer Society recommends people at average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screenings at age 45 and continue through the age of 75. For those ages 76 through 85, screening decisions are based on prior screening history, overall health, life expectancy, and personal preference.

Individuals may often delay colorectal cancer screenings that involve colonoscopies because of the preparation involved. There’s also a population of older patients who believe they don’t need it anymore. According to Dr. Ahmed, “It’s always important to have that conversation with your own primary care provider before making a decision regarding delaying or foregoing screening.”

Colorectal screenings require a patient to fast and take medications to clear the colon. Then, under sedation, a doctor uses a camera to detect the presence of polyps and to remove them, if applicable. “Early detection truly does save lives,” said Dr. Ahmed. In many instances, polyps removed during the colonoscopy or in a subsequent procedure means that no further treatment, such as chemotherapy or other treatment, is needed.

While most insurance companies will cover the cost of the screening from age 45, those who are underinsured or not insured may be able to take advantage of the Calvert County Health Department’s no cost screening program.  
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