Colon cancer bumped to the top of the list

March 29, 2024

Southlake—Colon Cancer isn't just your grandparents' problem anymore. New 2024 data from the American Cancer Society finds colorectal cancer has been increasing at an alarming rate in people under 55 for several years now. During this National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, GI Alliance, the premiere physician-owned and led network of gastroenterology practices in the US, encourages everyone to get tested now. Especially those under 55 with a family history or personal history or bowel issues.

Private insurers and Medicare are federally mandated to cover the costs of colorectal cancer screenings, as outlined in the Affordable Care Act. There are no out-of-pocket costs, no co-pays, no deductibles.

Colorectal cancers now rank as the leading cause of cancer death in men under 55 and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US overall.

Due to delays in detection exacerbated by reliance on alternative methods like home testing kits and the age 45 insurance barrier, younger Americans are often diagnosed with more advanced cancers. With a 98 percent accuracy rate, the most effective tool for cancer detection and prevention is and always has been colonoscopy.

Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT), an at-home testing alternative, lags behind colonoscopy with an average accuracy rate of only about 79 percent. Expert physicians from GI Alliance remind people that at-home kits are also prone to false positives and struggle to detect all polyps that may be present.

“Colonoscopy is by far the most effective tool available in preventing colon cancer,” Dr. Clif Cox, a GI Alliance physician practicing with Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, who specializes in colon and rectal surgery, said. "It is far superior to at-home FIT testing, which can miss up to 60 percent of the precancerous polyps that we need to detect and remove."

It is estimated there will be more than 150,000 new colorectal cancer cases in 2024, with 53,000 resulting in death, according to ACS.

Colonoscopy not only detects and prevents colorectal cancer but enables your physician to immediately remove precancerous polyps during the procedure.

"Colonoscopy is the only tool we have that both detects and removes those polyps that can develop into colon and rectal cancer," Dr. Cox said. "Even when other tests detect the presence of polyps, they then rely on colonoscopy to be performed for removal."

In the evolving landscape of colon cancer prevention, colonoscopy stands out as the best and safest option for preventing, detecting, and treating this disease.

"Most other recommended screening tests we have available catch cancer early; colonoscopy is one of the few tests available to us that can actually prevent cancer," Dr. Cox said. "It is extremely safe, highly effective, and painless. If all of us adhered to the current guidelines, colon and rectal cancer rates would plummet."

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