Colon Cancer: More Prevalent Than You Think

Colorectal cancer is on the rise in younger people, causing the American Cancer Society to lower its recommended screening age from 50 to 45 for those with “average risk.” Young and middle-aged Americans now have a much higher risk of colon cancer, and even higher risk for rectal cancer, than their older counterparts do. According to a recent American Cancer Society study, colon cancer has hit millennials particularly hard. Because millennials would not typically suspect colon cancer, they may miss early symptoms as simple as abdominal cramping.

An increasingly unhealthy lifestyle may be driving the increases, according to researchers. Lack of exercise, obesity, and low fiber consumption may increase the risk.

However, testing can catch colon cancer early. Anyone with a first-degree relative with colon cancer before the age of 60 should begin a more aggressive testing time line. Test at either age 40 or ten years before the age of your relative when he or she was diagnosed. Keep in mind that researchers have not identified a perfect age to test.

Whether your insurance pays for the test depends on several factors. If your health care plan is the Affordable Care Act or Medicare and you are over 50, a colonoscopy is covered as preventive care. Before scheduling your test, contact your insurer to determine whether they will pay for it. Shop around, because outpatient facilities usually charge less than hospitals for the same test.

If you’re unsure about a colonoscopy, the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a noninvasive test you use at home and send to a lab for results. Your primary care physician can provide more details. If your FIT test is abnormal, you will need a colonoscopy.