HASTINGS, CAMBRIA COUNTY (WTAJ) — According to the National Cancer Institute, the rate of colorectal cancer in people 50 and under is rising, nearly doubling since the 1990’s. The incidence of colorectal cancer in people 40 to 49 has gone up by almost 15 percent since the year 2000. Not only do younger people seem to be more at risk of developing the disease, more of them are dying from it.
Recently, U.S. health experts lowered the recommended age for starting colorectal cancer screening from 50 to 45 in people of average risk. Dr. Stan Zagorski, a general surgeon, who performs colonoscopies at Conemaugh Miners Medical Center is glad to see the change.
“We have seen younger people develop colon cancer that we’ve diagnosed. That’s why we want to keep on looking and looking earlier,” he said.
Getting screened for colon cancer doesn’t mean you need to have a colonoscopy, unless you have a personal or family history of the disease, or a personal history of an inflammatory bowel disease.
If you’re at average risk you can start out with stool-based tests. One well-known example is Cologuard, a test you can do at home, which detects DNA markers for colon cancer, and blood.
Dr Zagorski recommends that you talk to your doctor about which test is best for you. The important thing is to be screened.
“We know that in the early stages there are no signs of symptoms. We can actually screen a person and we can find lesions, which we call polyps, which are precancerous. We can remove those and actually prevent them from becoming a colorectal cancer,” Dr. Zagorski explained.
He added that the number of people being screened for colorectal cancer dropped dramatically during the pandemic, so if you missed your regular screening, or if you’re in the age group in which screening is recommended, you’d better schedule it.
Also, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you experience signs of colon cancer, including diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, and bloating.