Earlier this year, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) took a major step, lowering the recommended age for beginning colorectal cancer screening from 50 to 45. Anyone with average or greater risk of colon cancer should begin these screening methods at 45 now, helping pick up cases of this common form of cancer earlier so they can be properly treated.
At Pinnacle Biolabs, we're proud to offer colon cancer screening tests of several varieties, including the at-home FIT test that can be utilized by anyone. We're happy to see the recommended age for such screenings lowered, as we believe this will help improve the efficacy and outcomes of treatments by detecting more cases earlier. What do these new guidelines mean for the prevention of this condition, and what are some basic elements of them to be aware of if you're considering such a screening? This two-part blog series will go over several important variables.
The first major benefit of these guideline changes is simply how many more people will have access to colon cancer screening now. Over 20 million additional Americans will now have access -- and because the Affordable Care Act requires that Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance plans cover such screenings in their entirety, there should be no financial barriers to getting screened.
The Task Force also underscored the importance of early detection in reducing the mortality rate from colorectal cancer. When caught early, this form of cancer is highly curable; but when it progresses, the chances for a cure drop dramatically.
And when you combine this with the frequency of colon cancer cases, it quickly becomes clear why early detection is so important. Colorectal cancer is the third-most diagnosed cancer in both men and women outside skin cancer types, with the American Cancer Society projecting over 100,000 cases in the year 2021 alone. Fortunately, early detection can help reduce the number of these cases significantly, reducing both the human suffering caused by this condition and the economic burden felt by families.
Why was earlier this year the time when these guidelines were changed? Well, due to a consistent increase in the rates of colon cancer in people under 50.
Sadly, data shows that colorectal cancer rates for people under 50 have steadily increased every year since 1990 -- researchers aren't even sure why, but the data is clear. In addition, major delays in diagnosis are a major factor in increasing colorectal cancer deaths; because too many cases aren't detected until they're in stage IV or even later, their potential outcomes are relatively negative. By moving the guidelines back by five years, the Task Force hopes to catch more cases of cancer at an earlier stage.
For more on the change from the recommended colorectal cancer screening age from 50 to 45, or to learn about any of our colon cancer screening or other screening services, speak to the staff at Pinnacle Biolabs today.