5 Signs You Need a Colonoscopy Before Age 50

5 Signs You Need a Colonoscopy Before Age 50

Abdominal pain, traces of blood in the pants… Certain symptoms should prompt you to have a colonoscopy according to American doctors. Discover these warning signs and current methods of colorectal cancer screening.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common in Europe. Each year, it affects more than 47,000 people and causes 17,000 deaths. This is why some experts suggest performing a colonoscopy before the key age recommended by the authorities.

An increase in cases among the youngest

It’s a fact: rates of colorectal cancer are increasing among younger people. A worrying trend, observed in particular in the United States, where cases – among people aged 55 and under – increased from 11% in 1995 to 20% in 2019 according to the American Cancer Society.

Since the late 1990s, colorectal cancer has also become the fourth leading cause of cancer death and the leading cause of cancer death in men aged under 50.

The problem ? The key age for getting tested – established by the authorities – is from 50 years old in Europe and is between 45 and 75 years old in the United States.

Colorectal cancer screening in Europe

Colonoscopy is not the first screening test for colorectal cancer in Europe. Between 50 and 74 years old, every French person is invited by mail every 2 years by Health Insurance to participate in the colorectal cancer screening program. A screening kit is provided by the general practitioner or other specialists but can also be ordered online from the website monkit.depistage-colorectal.fr or via your pharmacist. This kit contains the test to be carried out according to the instructions below.

Once your test has been carried out, you send it using the pre-identified T envelope to the laboratory responsible for analyzing it and receive your results in the following days. If the test is positive (4% of cases), it means that blood is present in your stool, but it does not automatically mean that you have cancer. This is why the doctor refers you to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy to look for the origin of this bleeding. If the test is negative (96% of cases), this means that no bleeding has been detected. In this case, the test will be offered to you every 2 years but if you present abnormal signs between 2 tests (bleeding, weight loss, etc.), a medical consultation is recommended.

Signs that should alert you

Certain symptoms, family history or inconveniences could justify earlier screening by colonoscopy according to American experts interviewed by the media BuzzFeed. These are the following signs:

  • You have blood in your stools. “Any trace of blood, even if it is just blood on toilet paper and you think it is probably related to hemorrhoids, should be checked“, estimates Dr. Reid Ness, associate professor of medicine in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Vanderbilt Center for Human Nutrition.
  • You have persistent intestinal changes. According to Dr. Jeffrey Dueker, a gastroenterologist at UPMC and associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, any intestinal variation that lasts (changes in stool frequency, the shape of the stools, their consistency, etc.) can be an alarm signal.
  • You experience sudden abdominal pain or weight loss. According to Dr. Carole Macaron, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, any unexplained abdominal pain should alarm you. Same thing if you lose weight for no apparent reason.
  • You have a family history of colon cancer. Still according to Dr. Carole Macaron, people whose loved one (parent, brother, sister, etc.) has a history of colorectal cancer must undergo screening before the age of 45. “SAccording to a large meta-analysis, if you have a first-degree relative with colorectal cancer, your risk is about twice as high“, she emphasizes, before adding: “If this first-degree relative had their colon cancer at… age 50 or younger, your risk is up to three times higher.”.
  • You suffer from iron deficiency anemia, inflammatory bowel disease or have a history of certain cancers. Although it is common among young women, “Iron deficiency anemia can be a warning sign in some cases…“, confides Dr. Jeffrey Dueker. The same goes for inflammatory bowel diseases: in this case you must have a colonoscopy before the age of 45. “Any type of inflammation involving the colon can put you at risk for precancerous changes called dysplasia or colon cancer“, adds the doctor. “There are other medical problems as well. For example, if someone has had radiation therapy to the pelvic or abdominal area (…) this could also increase their risk of colon cancer.” she notes.

The message conveyed by doctors is therefore clear: “People at higher risk (due to) family history or symptoms should have (a) colonoscopy“, concludes Dr. Reid Ness.