When and how you should screen for colon cancer

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) today announced the publication of new NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Colorectal Cancer Screening.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States, with an estimated 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 43,230 new cases of rectal cancer in 2021, and an estimated 52,980 deaths this year.

Screening can reduce the rate of death by catching CRC at an earlier, more treatable stage, and can reduce overall cancer incidences by detecting and removing pre-cancerous polyps.

This new, free guide for patients and caregivers breaks down the different ways screening can be done and explains the recommended timing according to the latest research.

Importance of screening

Accurate information about cancer screening is particularly important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic—which has seen reduced screening numbers projected to result in increased late-stage diagnoses.

NCCN Guidelines for Patients are based on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines), which are determined by multidisciplinary teams of experts from across NCCN Member Institutions.

The patient versions are presented in easy-to-read language and format—with charts, images, and a glossary of medical terms—and were found to be among the most trustworthy options for cancer patients seeking information online, according to an independent study published last year in Current Urology.

Recently updated recommendations 

In early 2021, the NCCN Guidelines for Colorectal Screening were updated to recommend screening begin possibly as young as 45-years-old for people at average risk, and includes additional recommendations for those with higher risk.

Additionally, some follow-up screenings can safely be delayed for seven to ten years. The research is evolving rapidly and even primary care physicians may not be up-to-date on the latest expert consensus.

Drs. Llor and Ness both stressed that patients at any age who experience symptoms should be evaluated for colorectal cancer. Some of those symptoms include:

  • rectal bleeding;
  • changes in bowel habits;
  • persistent stomach pain;
  • fatigue;
  • and unexplained weight loss.

The panel also wanted to honor the significant contributions from longtime NCCN Guidelines Panel Chair, Dawn Provenzale, MD, of Duke Cancer Institute, who passed away earlier this year.

If you care about colon cancer, please read studies about can aspirin lower colon cancer risk in older people and findings that using this drug before a diagnosis may lower death risk in colon cancer.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies about how to protect yourself from colon cancer and results showing that this vitamin level in the body linked to your colon cancer risk.

 Source: National Comprehensive Cancer Network