NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If you’re in your mid-40s and haven’t had your colon checked, it might be time.
The American Cancer Society has issued new guidelines saying colorectal cancer screenings should start at age 45 and not 50.
At 47-years-old, Sandy Kyrkostas was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to her liver.
“When they tell you and your wife when you have two young children ‘get your life in order,’ that’s a scary point,” he said.
With no family history and symptoms that started only weeks before his diagnosis, cases like his are on the rise. The ACS says colorectal cancer among people under 50 has shot up 51 percent since 1994.
At the same time, rates steadily declined in people over 55 because of screenings.
“We know that early detection through screenings saves lives,” Dr. Daniel Labow from Mount Sinai Health System said. “It has driven down death rates from colon cancer in the over 50 age group.”
It’s why the ACS issued new guidelines to the benefits of screening to a younger population that’s suddenly at risk. The new guidelines don’t specify what screening method to use, only that any screening is better than none at all.
“If you get a test that’s indicative that you’re at risk, then you can get your colonoscopy and catch things early,” Dr. Labow said.
It took 12 rounds of chemotherapy and nine surgeries, but over time doctors were able to render him disease free. Sandy says if he had been screened at 45, he may have had cancer but not in such an advanced stage.
“You need to check for colon cancer, because it’s an easy diagnosis,” he said. “It’s a quick fix if you catch it early.”
The new guidelines also call for continued screening through age 85 instead of stopping at 75. The guidelines are for average risk people, so if you have a family history, bleeding, or change in bowel habits you need to be screened sooner.