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Task Force Recommends Colorectal Cancer Screening Age Should Be Lowered

Colon Cancer Screening

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released updated recommendations for colorectal cancer screening. The recommendation is to start screening patients at age 45 rather than 50. This recommendation is five years earlier and is in alignment with the American Cancer Society’s 2018 recommendation. UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids follows USPSTF guidelines.

The new recommendation follows a growing body of research indicating a rising incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults as incidence declines in older age groups. Half of all new diagnoses are in people 66 or younger. The median age of diagnosis has dropped from age 72 in 2001-2002 to age 66 during 2015-2016.

“This is welcome news,” said Dr. Dean Abramson, UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Gastroenterology. “Ten percent of colorectal cancer is now seen in individuals younger than age 50, often in advanced stage. These new recommendations will save lives. Colorectal cancer is curable when found early and long-term survival is possible even with late stage disease. This means starting at age 45, individuals may have a screening colonoscopy, which is the gold standard for detecting colon cancer. Equally important, if you have a change in bowel habit or rectal bleeding, no matter what your age, speak to your primary care provider or seek evaluation by a gastroenterologist.”

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Although some health plans have already begun to cover colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 45 following the ACS’s 2018 recommendation, under the Affordable Care Act, coverage of screening by most commercial plans beginning at age 45 will now be mandated by law.

In order to schedule a colonoscopy with St. Luke’s Digestive Health Center, you’ll need to ask your primary care provider for a referral to a UnityPoint Health  gastroenterologist, who will make an assessment before scheduling the procedure.

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