CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The American Cancer Society announced new guidelines this week when it comes to colorectal cancer screenings.
They are recommending screenings at 45 years of age instead of 50, following some alarming research that shows colorectal cancer rates on the rise for those under the age of 50.
"It is a pretty dramatic and bold statement right now that we should increase screenings with those ages 45 to 50," said Dr. Nicholas Anthony, a digestive health doctor with Atrium Health. "You are talking about screening 21 million extra individuals."
So far, the American Cancer Society is the only organization calling for the earlier screenings, but Dr. Anthony says survival rates are much higher if the cancer is detected early.
"The best kind of screening is the one that gets done. Whichever way we can get a patient to get tested for this cancer is the right one to do," said Dr. Anthony. "The stigma is that this is a disease of older people and that is definitely changing."
Dr. Anthony says if you have symptoms like bleeding, changes in bowel habits, or abdominal pain, you should be screened right away, no matter your age.
"It is looking at this age group and demographic, particularly if they are having symptoms, to go ahead and get tested," he said.
Philip Sanford is the event director for the Get Your Rear in Gear Race in Charlotte. The race focuses on early screenings and detection for colon cancer.
"I have come across so many people - whether it is survivors, patients, or families of patients - and so many of them are in their 30s and 40s," said Sanford.
Sanford lost his mother to the cancer at the age of 41.
"It was a complete shock. There was no family history there. Nothing that would have indicated that she would have colon cancer at such a young age," said Sanford.
For a look at these changes and why they're being suggested, click here.