The disease leads to over 50,000 deaths annually, making it the second leading cause of cancer fatalities among American adults.
The American Cancer Society's newly updated guidelines for colon and rectal cancer screening recommend that adults at average risk get screened starting at age 45 instead of 50, as previously advised.
After declining overall from 1970 to 2004, colon and rectal cancer mortality rates among 20- to 54-year-olds in the United States increased by 1% annually from 2004 to 2014, according to a study published last year in the medical journal JAMA.
For younger adults like Gale Fritsche, now 55, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, existing recommendations fell short.
Recommended options for colorectal cancer screening include: fecal immunochemical test (FIT) annually; high sensitivity guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (HSgFOBT) annually; multi-target stool DNA test (mt-sDNA) every 3 years; colonoscopy every 10 years; CT colonography (CTC) every 5 years; and flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) every 5 years. Doctors also recommend stool blood tests, which are done every year. On the other hand, if screening started at age 60, you'd have minimal burden but also minimal benefit - we would be missing some cancers and finding others too late.
The American Cancer Society has changed its colorectal cancer screening guidelines.
If you are in your mid-40s and have not been screened for colorectal cancer, it may be time to do so.
And if it isn't - bring it up yourself!
But the ACS commissioned a "modeling" study in developing the new guidelines. Therefore, the change reflects a "qualified recommendation, ' due to less direct evidence of the balance of benefits and harms, or patients" values and preferences, related to CRC screening in adults aged 45-49.
The recommendation appears online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Those with a family history or a history of inflammatory bowel disease such as Ulcerative Colitis may need to start much younger.
Anjelica ("Anjee") Davis serves as President of Fight Colorectal Cancer, a national nonprofit founded in 2005. They do not call for everyone to have a colonoscopy, the gold standard of colon cancer screening.
The organization, which announced the change in its guidelines Wednesday, said extensive analysis showed that lowering the starting age for screening would save lives.
Shares of diagnostic company Exact Sciences Corp, which makes Cologuard devices that helps detect colorectal cancer, jumped more than 10 percent after the guideline was revealed.
"If we can identify patients with early onslaught colon cancer earlier, we have a better chance of curing them", explained Dr. Manish Shah, a Gastrointestinal Oncologist.
Despite the high cure rate when colon cancer is caught early, only one-third of the Americans over 50 get screened. And some will cover stool testing, but refuse to cover follow-up colonoscopies for those with abnormal results, he said.