What You Need to Know about the Recent Colorectal Screening Changes


Dr. Christian Corwin

Christian Corwin, MD

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among adults in the United States. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2018 alone, more than 97,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 43,000 will be diagnosed with rectal cancer. These startling statistics make finding the factor or factors driving the development of colorectal cancer—especially in younger patients—potential keys in preventing the disease.

The ACS and other organizations offering preventative guidelines have always recommended that screening for colorectal cancer (colonoscopy) start for people of average risk at age 50. These recommendations have now changed to age 45—five years younger than the typical recommended screening age in both men and women of all races and ethnicities.

By optimizing screening to meet a wider demographic, the hope is to find cancers earlier, potentially early enough to offer successful treatments.

Despite the screening recommendations given to patients, recent studies show only 60 percent who were eligible and encouraged to have a colonoscopy did so in 2018. For those people that seem unwilling to move forward with a recommended colonoscopy, there are other ways you can screen for colon cancer beyond colonoscopy, including testing the stool for blood or other markers associated with tumors or polyps. While colonoscopy is still considered the gold standard for the prevention of colon cancer, the best screening test remains the test that someone is willing to have done.

For further assistance in reducing your risk for colorectal cancer, we recommend you discuss options with your primary care provider. The team at the Multispecialty clinic at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Health is also happy to assist you in recommendations.