What’s Going Around: Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The recommended screening for colon cancer is now 45 years old as doctors say patients are getting younger.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 8:45 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It takes a lot to maintain our health and keep our bodies running smoothly. While we may be able to let some things slide or take a back seat, there is one screening you do not want to miss.

“So the biggest thing about colon cancer is that oftentimes it does not present with symptoms until it’s quite advanced,” said Dr. Megan Nicolas, a colon and rectal surgeon at CoxHealth.

It’s the cancer that claimed the life of actor Chadwick Boseman in 2020, he was 43 years old. Dr. Nicolas said the guidelines to screen for colon cancer have recently changed.

“So it used to be that we recommended a routine screening colonoscopy at age 50, that has now gone down to age 45,” said Dr. Nicolas. “That is because we’re seeing colon and rectal cancers in younger and younger individuals.”

Dr. Nicolas said it’s about getting ahead of the eight ball, rather than dealing with colon cancer too late.

“So most people who I do diagnose, it’s actually on a screening colonoscopy,” said Dr. Nicolas. “When you develop bleeding or change in bowel habits, where you’re having constipation or bloating, weight loss, oftentimes, this is already a very advanced mass so finding it early means that we can sometimes even just treat it with a colonoscopy.”

Dr. Nicolas said it’s really anyone who can be diagnosed with colon cancer.

“I mean, classically, we think of the male, older individual, but it is really across the board at this point,” said Dr. Nicolas. “Smoking, processed foods, alcohol, use, obesity, these are all things that increase your risk of colon cancer, but really, the main thing is genetics and on lucky situations, honestly.”

Dr. Nicolas said for those who are nervous about getting a colonoscopy, the procedure has made big advancements. She said it’s a lot easier on people right now and most of her patients don’t remember the procedure at all.

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