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Colon Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. For decades, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommended colon cancer screening to be at the age of 50. Rising epidemiological trends are finding that adults born after the year 1990s have double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer compared to adults born during the 1950s. With these new data, the ACS is now recommending to start colorectal cancer screening at the age of 45 years old to improve early detection.                                  

 Colorectal cancer? What are the risk factors?

Colorectal cancer is diagnosed through the detection of small polyps in the colon. Polyps are very common but some can develop into cancerous polyps. A polyp biopsy removal is done to check if a polyp is cancerous. Some of the risk factors for colorectal cancer are “western” lifestyle, smoking, obesity, alcohol use,  eating processed/red meats, having family members who had colon cancer and more.

How does this affect healthcare?

More than 20 million adult Americans would fit the screening criteria if this recommendation is applied. Recent epidemiological patterns suggest that colorectal cancer risk is higher for age group born after the 1990s. The ACS also mentions that it is expected to benefit populations who are more at risk such as African Americans, Alaska Natives and American Indians. This could save the life of more patients and reduce healthcare costs in the long run.

The positive implementation of the ACS’s new recommendation is that patient preference is centered through the new screening. Some may dread colon cancer screening due to the fear of  undergoing a colonoscopy right away. Patient preference is valued in the new guidelines, with six different options for colon cancer screening.

What does it mean to me as a nurse?

As a clinical staff nurse serving patients who undergo colorectal surgery due to colon cancer, I do see a new prevalence of young healthy individuals less than 50 diagnosed with colon cancer. In a wider basis, healthcare cost spending might sound more but early cancer detection before it reaches malignancy can lower healthcare cost in the long run. I currently  work at the bedside, looking at the bigger picture of healthcare is still important. Ultimately, the goal is decreasing mortality and improve the life of patient outcomes.

I think about the healthcare cost spending for 22 million Americans for colonoscopies. But improving patient outcomes is the ultimate goal.  The new trend of younger patients with colon cancer is still not fully understood. While we don’t have a definite reason for this epidemic, primary prevention is the cheapest healthcare use. Nurses have the ability to provide primary prevention through patient education. Educating patients about reduction of processed meats, exercise, high fiber diet could also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

For more information please read American Cancer Society Website:

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