Age for colorectal exams lowered

Age for colorectal exams lowered. (WJAR)

There are new recommendations that colorectal cancer screening be done at an earlier age.

Up until recently, The American Cancer Society recommended screening beginning at age 50 for those at average risk.

Now, they’ve lowered it to age 45. And a North Providence woman is applauding the move.

48 year old Christina Grimes was diagnosed with colon cancer five weeks ago.

"I was having really bad stomach pains,” she recalled. So she went to Miriam Hospital.

"They sent me for a colonoscopy,” said Grimes.

"And they said you have a complete blockage of your colon."

"It blocked her colon in such a way that it put her upper colon at risk for perforation," said Dr. Steven Schechter, her surgeon and the Chief of Colorectal Surgery for Lifespan.

So, on Mother's Day, this mom of two young kids was wheeled in for emergency surgery.

"It was, for me, the best mother's day gift ever because we know what it is, we're treating it and the prognosis is good," said Grimes.

Dr. Schechter removing 75 percent of her colon in a minimally invasive way. But, here's the thing:

"In Christina's case, being 48, if she had screening starting at 45, probably would've removed a polyp that was about an inch and that's doable," said Schechter.

And that's exactly what the American Cancer Society is recommending: that screening begin at age 45 instead of 50. Data showing that in people older than 50, colorectal cancer has decreased by 30 percent because of screening.

"But in people younger than 50, there was an increase of colorectal cancer by 20 percent so that was alarming," said Schechter.

"It's far cheaper to screen for colon cancer than treat it."

And Grimes knows that all too well. Now that she's healing well from surgery, she is preparing for chemotherapy to make sure the cancer's gone. As for the new guidelines:

"I wish it would have come out a year ago, two years ago but I'm glad it's coming to light now and hopefully more people will take it seriously and do it," said Grimes.

Right now these are guidelines from the American Cancer Society and, at this point, this screening is NOT covered by insurance for those under the age of 50 who are at average risk. But Dr. Schechter believes that will change within the next year.

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