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      Colon Cancer Screening: 45 Is The New 50

      Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that average-risk individuals begin screening for colon cancer at age 45 instead of 50. With these new guidelines, the Task Force recognized the growing number of patients diagnosed with colon cancer younger than age 50.

      This shift in screening recommendations represents another important opportunity to prevent colon cancer. A high-quality colonoscopy – which is safe and well-tolerated by most patients – can remove polyps before they turn into cancer. No other screening test can prevent colon cancer.

      Let’s cover why these new screening recommendations are important and what it means for you.

      Why was the age for colon cancer screening lowered to 45?

      Colorectal cancer is also the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and rates among adults younger than 50 are increasing. In its early stage, colorectal cancer has little-to-no symptoms.

      The most common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

      1. A change in bowel habits
      2. Abdominal discomfort
      3. Rectal bleeding
      4. Weakness or fatigue
      5. Anemia (low hemoglobin count) found on routine blood work

      These symptoms can be related to other health issues – an occasional change in bowel habits is normal, for example. But if these symptoms last for more than a few weeks or concern you in any way, talk to your healthcare provider about them as soon as possible.

      Should I get screened for colon cancer?

      When we talk about screening for average-risk individuals, we’re talking about people who have never had polyps or cancer and who don’t have a family history of colon cancer. If you fall into the average-risk category, you should start screening at age 45.

      If you have a family history of colon cancer or certain types of precancerous polyps, screening may start at an earlier age. That’s why it’s important to have a clear understanding of your family medical history whenever possible.

      Does insurance cover a colonoscopy at 45?

      When the screening age guidelines changed, we expected some delay in insurance coverage kicking in for the younger ages. But most major insurance companies have already announced they are covering those earlier screenings.

      Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois – one of the largest health insurance providers in this region – is now recommending colon cancer screening start for their members at age 45 rather than 50.

      What should you do next? If possible, talk to your parents, siblings, or other family members about colon cancer. Ask if anyone in the family has had it or had polyps removed during a colonoscopy.

      Talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner or other healthcare provider about getting screened. There are several screening options available to detect colon cancer, but only colonoscopy is able to prevent colon cancer. You can also talk to your insurance provider to see what coverage options are available.

      You also can call us anytime at 815-397-7340 for more information. Referrals are often not needed.