We all know that preventive medicine is the best way to stay healthy, or to catch serious diseases early in their development when they can be better managed. In the case of cancer, regular screenings for the purpose of early detection are paramount. Many types of cancer can grow, undetected, for many months or years before producing symptoms. And by that point, the disease has often progressed to a later stage and is much more difficult to treat.
That can certainly be the case with colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. While we’ve gotten better at detecting and treating this type of cancer, it is still estimated to kill more than 50,000 people this year. Now, the US Preventive Services Task Force has released new guidelines on colorectal cancer screenings.
Previously, the first screening was ordered at age 50. That target date has been moved up, with screenings to begin at age 45. You’re probably past that age now, but the new recommendation points to the fact that colorectal cancer can and does begin early, and often goes undetected for years. By changing the recommendation, doctors hope to catch more cases earlier.
The good news: Since the change comes as an official recommendation, many health insurance plans will cover the exam without copayment.
The not-so-good news: But what about those of you in your sixties, who have yet to schedule a colorectal screening exam? Technically, this new recommendation means you’re even farther behind on this important health screening.
For those who are hesitant about colorectal cancer screenings, it might help to know that the medical industry has come a long way toward keeping patients comfortable during this procedure. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, and they can offer different options to make the procedure seem less overwhelming for you.