(NBC News) – The American Cancer Society has lowered the age to start screening for colon cancer.
Colorectal screening should now begin at age 45, rather than age 50.
The experts cite a worrisome rise in the number of younger adults diagnosed with the nation’s third leading cause of cancer deaths.
Lari Johnston suspects she may not be alive today if she’d had her first colon cancer screening at age 50.
“I really didn’t have anything that was overwhelmingly suspicious,” she says.
Her gynecologist routinely suggested early colorectal screening for patients, and Lari’s testing lead to a shocking diagnosis of advanced colon cancer at age 47.
At this point she’s determined to focus on her family, not her prognosis.
“They don’t give me a prognosis, and I don’t want one. It’s stage IV. It’s a terminal illness, but who knows what’s around the corner,” she says.
Cancer experts have noted a rise in stories like Lari’s: colorectal cancer in younger and younger patients.
“We’re deeply concerned about this trend,” says Dr. Richard Wender of the American Cancer Society.
Experts say this is one of the few cancers that can be prevented with screening.
“The most common finding when you’re screening is actually not cancer. It’s a polyp. And almost all colorectal cancers develop from polyps. If you find the polyp, remove it, you never develop the cancer,” Dr. Wender explains.
Doctors aren’t sure why colorectal cancers are increasing in younger adults.
A colonoscopy is not the only effective screening tool. Doctors also recommend stool blood tests, which are done every year.