Changes in Colonoscopy Recommendations: 45 Is the New 50


Despite whether they've undergone a screening or not, many adults understand that 50 is the ideal age for colonoscopy exams. The majority of medical providers advise that patients get their first colonoscopy when they turn 50 and then every decade after that. However, new studies indicate that you should plan to undergo your initial colonoscopy exam even before reaching this age.

You may be wondering when you should begin having colonoscopies and why the change? GI Alliance of Illinois is here to answer all of your questions. Our board-certified gastroenterologists can provide detailed information on what you can expect with a colonoscopy, when to get this exam, and far more. We commonly perform these exams for patients throughout Chicago, Elgin, Peoria, Arlington Heights, Gurnee, Hinsdale, and the surrounding areas.

Start screening sooner?

For some time, we’ve known that turning 50 marks when we should start having screenings for colorectal cancer. However, recent studies demonstrate that perhaps we should start screening even before then – upon turning 45. In fact, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending it. A number of insurance providers, including Medicare, have updated their plans to begin offering coverage for colonoscopies at age 45.

Much of what initiated this update comes from a rise in colon cancer diagnoses among younger adults. Between the years of 2008 and 2017, the death rate in patients 55 and younger increased by 1%. This increase is a bit alarming given that the overall colorectal cancer rates decreased during that same timeframe.

To align with these recent discoveries, the colonoscopy doctors at GI Alliance of Illinois advise having a colon cancer screening with our gastroenterology team when you turn 45 years of age.

Why are colonoscopy exams important?

Most of us have likely heard that undergoing screenings for colorectal cancer is vital in our older years. This is because colon and rectal cancer can be diagnosed in the early stage and often prevented with these routine screenings. Whether a family member has experienced colon cancer, you have experienced colon cancer, or you have reached that “prime age,” colonoscopy exams are an important component of preserving your general health.

Taking less than an hour to complete, these screenings permit our doctors to gain a close-up, comprehensive view of your colon. Throughout a colonoscopy screening, we can look for abnormalities and excise any colon polyps, which can then be forwarded to the lab for further evaluation. By extracting such polyps, our goal is to detect colon cancer while it's in an early stage, if not prevent it altogether.

Who is at risk of colon and rectal cancer?

Now that you know when you should begin having colon cancer screenings, what factors increase your chance of developing this disease? Some common risk factors for colon cancer development are:

  • Poor nutrition, or a diet high in fat and low in fruits, fiber, and vegetables
  • Prior radiation treatments to the pelvic or abdominal area
  • Inadequate amounts of exercise
  • An inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Tobacco use
  • Family history of colon cancer

Should you carry any of the risk factors above, please contact one of our GI Alliance of Illinois locations as soon as you can to see if you should have a colonoscopy exam.

Get your colonoscopy screening in Illinois

We know the thought of scheduling a colonoscopy screening may be unappealing, but this quick, commonly performed, essential examination could possibly be life-saving. Whether you have already turned 45 or are around that age, you should get in touch with GI Alliance of Illinois to request a colonoscopy consultation. At our gastroenterology centers in Chicago, Elgin, Peoria, Arlington Heights, Gurnee, Hinsdale, and the surrounding areas, we strive to make these tests as fast and comfortable as possible. Should you have questions about whether your insurance covers colonoscopies, our knowledgeable team will be happy to assist.

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