Too few Americans are screening for colon cancer

Only 21 percent of Americans 45 years old and older have gotten their first colonoscopy on time, a new survey found, yet 59 percent say they are worried about getting colon cancer.

Forty-five is the recommended age to begin regular colorectal cancer screenings, according to the American Cancer Society. What concerns physicians is that for multiple years, researchers have seen an increase of nearly 15 percent in instances of colorectal cancer in adults between the ages 40 and 49.

"In 2020, the recommendations changed so people with average risk for colon cancer, meaning no family history and no symptoms, should start at age 45," Joseph Jennings, MD, a gastroenterologist at MedStar Health in Columbia, Md., said in a March 1 statement. "The exceptions are for people with known family history of colon cancer or have certain genetic syndromes that would mean they should start earlier."

Dr. Jennings noted in the news release that many may be hesitant because of the preparation required for a colonoscopy, but said it has become easier in recent years.

"We have smaller volumes, down to a couple of milliliters of fluid to drink, or even pills that can be taken with water and sports drinks that make the necessary prep much more palatable," he said.

The survey also found a low number — 11 percent — of respondents even knew what the regular schedule for screenings was, suggesting that "they just haven't heard about the new recommendations or they're anxious about the preparation involved," Dr. Jennings said in a statement.

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