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Physicians Urge: Don't Delay Screening For Colorectal Cancer - African American patients should be screened earlier than age 50

During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) urges everyone over age 50 (or younger with certain risk factors) to get screened on time. Newrecommendations recently have been published, and ASGE physicians want to educate the public about their options for protecting their health. ASGE represents experts in endoscopy and colorectal cancer screening.

Colorectal cancer is expected to kill 50,630 people this year, according to the American Cancer Society. But it doesn't have to. Many of those deaths could be prevented with earlier detection. Women are at equal risk as men for colon cancer. Highlights of the latest recommendations include:

  • People at average risk for CRC should be screened beginning at age 50.
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years or fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) every year should be selected as the preferred tests, according to rankings by experts.
  • African-American patients should be screened earlier than age 50, according to emerging data.

Also addressed in the recommendations is a concerning trend of increasing rates of CRC in younger people. The reasons for this trend are not clear, but an article in ASGE Connection offers insights from top experts about possible causes and future research directions. Physicians and patients are encouraged to be aware of this trend and to follow up any unusual symptoms with vigilance.

According to ASGE President Karen L. Woods, MD, FASGE, "We want to remind everyone that colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. If you get screened on time, you can have precancerous polyps removed. And if cancer is found early, it is highly treatable."

Colonoscopy screening for colon (or colorectal) cancer is particularly valuable because it allows the doctor to find polyps - growths in the colon or rectum that may become cancer - and remove them before the polyps have the opportunity to turn into cancer.

FIT testing examines a stool sample to look for hidden blood, and patients can do their part at home. But if they have a positive finding on a FIT test, they will still need a colonoscopy to follow up. There are other screening test options that may be suitable for certain patients; some of those require colonoscopy to follow up any suspicious findings as well.

ASGE members know that people often find the prospect of a colonoscopy daunting, particularly the first time. But with a little preparation and support, it doesn't have to be a big deal.

Dr. Woods added, "It's human nature to want to put off getting screened. But don't be one of those people! We have patients coming in for screening colonoscopies all week long, and I can't tell you how many of them say it feels great to have it done, and they don't know why they put it off."

ASGE has a dedicated website, Screen4ColonCancer.org, to inform the public about colorectal cancer screening. The site offers visitors a wealth of information, including facts about colon cancer and screening options, what to expect during a colonoscopy, answers to frequently asked questions, links to patient support and advocacy groups, informational videos, and how to find a qualified gastrointestinal endoscopist.  It also includes brochures and posters to help spread the word.

New this year is an engaging animation explaining the importance of CRC screening, produced by TED Ed in cooperation with Columbia University Medical Center physicians and endorsed by ASGE.

ASGE also has two new radio news releases this year that will air nationally in March, one in English and one in Spanish.

All ASGE resources for NCRCAM are available for free use without further permission.

Colorectal cancer is considered a silent killer because often there are no symptoms until it is too late to treat. Age is the single most important risk factor for the disease, so even people who lead a healthy lifestyle can still develop polyps and cancer. 

While colonoscopy is the most thorough test, and the only one that can prevent cancer by allowing for removal of polyps, there are other screening methods.  All men and women age 50 or older should talk with their doctor about the colon cancer screening method that is best for them. And anyone with risk factors, such as African-American patients or those with family history, should start talking with their doctor well before age 50 about getting screened. Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable!

About the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Since its founding in 1941, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) has been dedicated to advancing patient care and digestive health by promoting excellence in gastrointestinal endoscopy. ASGE, with more than 15,000 members worldwide, promotes the highest standards for endoscopic training and practice, fosters endoscopic research, recognizes distinguished contributions to endoscopy, and is the foremost resource for endoscopic education. Visit www.asge.org and www.screen4coloncancer.org for more information and to find a qualified doctor in your area.

About Endoscopy 

Endoscopy is performed by specially-trained physicians called endoscopists using the most current technology to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Using flexible, thin tubes called endoscopes, endoscopists are able to access the human digestive tract without incisions via natural orifices. Endoscopes are designed with high-intensity lighting and fitted with precision devices that allow viewing and treatment of the gastrointestinal system.   

SOURCE American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Related Links

http://www.asge.org/
http://www.screen4coloncancer.org/

NEWS PROVIDED BY
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

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