45 Is the New 50: Updates to Colonoscopy Recommendations


No matter if you’ve had one or not, you're likely aware that 50 is the magic number for colonoscopy exams. Most medical providers recommend that patients schedule their initial colonoscopy when they reach age 50 and then every decade following. Current research shows, however, that you should arrange to have your first colonoscopy exam even before that.

When should you start scheduling colonoscopy screenings and why the change? Arizona Digestive Health is ready to answer any questions you may have. Our board-certified gastrointestinal doctors in the Phoenix, AZ area can explain what you should anticipate when having a colonoscopy, when to have this exam, and more.

Start screening sooner?

In previous years, we’ve heard that age 50 is when we should begin screening for colorectal cancer. However, new studies show that we should start screening for the disease even before then – at age 45. As a matter of fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) are recommending this. A number of insurance providers, including Medicare, have updated their plans to begin covering colonoscopies at this age in life.

Much of what has spurred this change comes from an increase in the number of colon cancer diagnoses in younger adults. Between the years of 2008 and 2017, the mortality rate among people aged 55 and younger increased by 1%. This rise is a bit surprising considering that the all-around colon and rectal cancer rates actually decreased during that particular period of time.

In line with these recent findings, our Arizona Digestive Health colonoscopy doctors advise getting a colon cancer screening with our gastroenterology team as soon as you turn 45 years of age.

Why are colonoscopies essential for my health?

Most people are probably aware that having colorectal cancer screenings is essential as we age. This is because colon cancer can be caught in the early stage and even avoided with periodic exams. Regardless of whether someone in your family has been diagnosed with colon cancer, you've experienced this disease, or you've reached that “ideal age,” colonoscopies are an essential part of managing your health and wellness.

These exams enable our providers to gain a close-up, comprehensive view of your large intestine and only take about 15 – 30 minutes to complete. During a colonoscopy exam, we can assess for areas of concern and remove any growths (colon polyps), which can then be sent to the lab for in-depth evaluation. By removing and testing colon polyps, our goal is to detect colon cancer while it's in an early stage and possibly even prevent its development.

Am I at risk for colorectal cancer?

You are now aware of the age to start screening for colorectal cancer, but what are the risks? Common risk factors for colon and rectal cancer are:

  • Use of tobacco products
  • Prior radiation treatments to the abdomen or pelvis
  • An inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Family history
  • Poor nutrition, or a diet high in fat and low in fiber, fruits, and vegetables
  • Lack of physical activity

If you carry one or more of the risk factors listed above, we suggest you reach out to your nearest Arizona Digestive Health location to determine if you should have a colonoscopy screening.

Schedule a colonoscopy screening in Arizona

We know the idea of undergoing a colonoscopy exam might seem embarrassing; however, this fast, commonly performed, vital evaluation could possibly be life saving. Whether you’re 45 or older, we urge you to contact Arizona Digestive Health to schedule a colonoscopy consultation. At our gastroenterology centers in the Phoenix, AZ area, we aim to make these screenings as efficient and comfortable as possible. Should you require assistance determining if your colonoscopy is covered by insurance, our caring team will be more than happy to help.

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