A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Colon Cancer Prevention Project continues work to save lives; ACS reduces recommended screening age

The American Cancer Society responded to the increasing rates of early age onset colon cancer by pragmatically lowering the age of initial colon cancer screening for normal risk individuals from 50 to 45.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancers that effect both men and women with 43 percent of young onset patients diagnosed between the ages of 45-49.

In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, those with commercial insurance will be immediately eligible to receive on-time screening at 45, according to the new ACS guidelines.

Colon Cancer Prevention Project founder, Dr. Whitney Jones, emphasizes that, while this policy change is a huge step forward, it only applies to individuals with average risk who do not have symptoms.

“Those with a family history of colon or rectal cancer, or advanced adenomatous colon polyps, should check with the doctor about on-time screening, which begins at 40 but could be necessary even earlier, Jones said.”

Project Executive Director Amanda Smart said millennials have double the risk of developing colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer for reasons that are not yet completely clear.

“No matter your age, if you are experiencing symptoms such as rectal bleeding, unexplained anemia, changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, or unexplained abdominal pain, please don’t wait to be screened,” Smart said. “In the case of symptoms, contact your medical provider immediately.”

This long-needed change in screening age will continue to help the team of professionals across the state reduce unnecessary suffering and premature deaths from colon and rectal cancers.

The Colon Cancer Prevention Project is committed to saving lives across the region through continued education and encouraging people to be screened on time – by age 45.

“Kentucky has been a model for prevention, with at least one ad district having screened 80 percent of recommended people,” Jones said. “Let’s keep it up.”

The Colon Cancer Prevention Project was founded in 2004 by Dr. Whitney Jones, a Louisville gastroenterologist with a passion for preventing colon cancer. The Project is now based in Louisville, Ky. and encompasses volunteers throughout the state and four full-time staff members and a part-time administrative assistant.

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