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Released on Mar 7, 2019

GI doctors urge: Know the facts about screening for colorectal cancer ​

ASGE says colorectal cancer is “Preventable, Treatable and Beatable.”

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill., Mar. 7, 2019 – During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (NCRCAM) in March, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) has new tools to help everyone know the facts about when and how to be screened for colorectal cancer. Everyone should be screened beginning at age 50, and even earlier if they have certain risk factors.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is expected to take the lives of 51,000 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 of cancer and, just as important, detection of precancerous polyps. Available tests and expert recommendations have changed in recent years. ASGE physicians, who are experts in endoscopy and colorectal cancer screening, want to educate the public about how best to protect their health. 

To help consumers understand their risk, the right age to be screened, available tests and other information about CRC, ASGE debuts its new website, www.Screen4ColonCancer.org. In addition, this new decision tool helps patients and physicians talk together about screening.

Highlights of the latest recommendations from the Multisociety Task Force on Colorectal Cancer 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. In addition, people with certain risk factors should discuss being screened earlier than age 50 with their doctor.

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 researchers and other experts are working to learn more. Physicians and patients are encouraged to be aware of this trend and to follow up any unusual symptoms with vigilance.

According to ASGE President Steven A. Edmundowicz, 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. We know there are  a lot of messages coming at consumers lately about recommendations and screening options, so we want to be sure they have good information and talk with their physician.”

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. Colonoscopy and FIT (fecal immunochemical) tests are considered the top tests for people at average risk for CRC, but for people at higher risk, colonoscopy is the only recommended test.

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. Edmundowicz 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 also has a new radio news release that will air nationally in March.

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 a family history of colorectal cancer, should start talking with their doctor well before age 50 about getting screened. Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable!