Colorectal Cancer is the fourth most common non-skin cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death due to cancer. Generally colorectal cancer most impacts those over age 50, but recent studies have revealed that the number of cases in young people has increased 51 percent since 1994. Andrew Wolf, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Virginia says, “We don’t know why it’s going on, but it’s increasingly clear that it is happening.” Most of the nation’s 140,000 annual cases and 50,000 deaths from colon and rectal cancer still occur among people over age 55, but the share of cases involving younger adults is concerning.
Some researchers believe the consistent rise in colon cancer in younger Americans is the result of poor diet and obesity. Whatever the cause, the result of recent studies has led the American Cancer Society to reevaluate its long-standing guidelines on colon cancer screening. While the overall costs and benefits of earlier screening remain a topic of debate within the cancer care community, the message that early screening is important rings true. David Weinberg, chairman of medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia says, “The bottom line is that if you regularly participate in colon cancer screening, you have a reduced risk of getting and dying from colon cancer.”
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is now recommending that all adults at average or low risk get screened for the disease at the age of 45, instead of 50 as it previously recommended. Those in good health, at average risk, and who have a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue screening through the age of 75. Men and women at high risk, such as patients with a family history of colorectal cancer, may require a more aggressive screening program.
A colonoscopy has long been the most common form of testing a patient for colorectal cancer but is a procedure that many avoid or delay. New prescreening solutions are now available which can alleviate the discomfort of the pretest requirements. Several other tests are available by prescription, including stool tests that can be administered at home, eliminating the time spent in a clinic or hospital and the risk of bowel perforation and complications from anesthesia.
The professional staff and Oncologists at Gettysburg Cancer Center (GCC) understand the importance of prevention as well as treatment of cancer. With Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Diagnostic Imaging and an onsite laboratory and pharmacy, GCC offers comprehensive screening and treatment options.