New study addresses when to start colon cancer screenings - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

New study addresses when to start colon cancer screenings

(Source: RNN) (Source: RNN)

Margaret Barnette started getting colonoscopies when she was 50. Over time, she had several polyps and much of her colon removed due to diverticulitis.

"And then I went on several years and didn't have any problems and then all of a sudden it raised its ugly head," she said.

Barnette's doctor, gastroenterologist Jeanette Keith, found the cancer. Barnette described what doctors found.

"The mass was wrapped around my colon and had actually cut off the life to my colon," she said.

Surgery followed and she is still on a unique type of chemotherapy.

"And some of the complications I've had since then, I nearly died," she said.

Now Keith is concerned about new information made available to specialists.

"There was a recent study just released by the National Cancer Institute showing two very important things. First of all, they showed a decrease of incidence of colon cancer in adults over the age of 50, due in part to our screening efforts," she said.

Barnette said there is no doubt screening saved her life.  But Keith said the new study released in the Journal of the National Cancer institute has a startling finding as well.

"We are now seeing a fourfold increase in rectal cancer and a significant increase in colon cancer in adults below the age of 50," she said.

Current guidelines call for screenings in African Americans at 45 years of age and all others at 50, which Keith questions.

"The study has given many of us pause for concern, and the question that we all asking ourselves is should screening begin before the age of 50. We really need more study to help us identify the age for optimal screening," she said.

Many patients fear the prep before the screening to clear the bowel for testing. But Keith said there are now nine different types of preps. To find which is best for you, check with your doctor.

Keith has started a fund through the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation to help raise awareness of colon cancer by establishing an education room, called Life oasis at Decatur Morgan Hospital. To make a donation, call Teena at 350-0153, extension 202.

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