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Main Line Health chief of colorectal surgery explains new ACS guidelines for colorectal cancer screenings

Lankenau Medical Center May 31, 2018 News Releases

(Wynnewood, Pa.) – The American Cancer Society (ACS) released new recommendations for colorectal cancer screening guidelines, including the age screenings should begin for colorectal cancer. Previously, the screening age for a person at average risk was 50. The new guidelines have reduced that age to 45.

“By lowering the screening age, our goal is to detect colorectal cancer earlier in patients who are at an increased risk for the disease,” explains John Marks, MD, chief of colorectal surgery at Main Line Health and medical director of the Harry Paul Mirabile, Sr. Colorectal Cancer Center at Lankenau Medical Center. “Even with advances in detection and treatment, colorectal cancer is the number one abdominal malignancy that affects both men and women. Roughly one in 20 Americans will develop this cancer, and the tragedy is that it is entirely preventable by getting a colonoscopy.”

Last year, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that colon cancer rates increased from one percent to 2.4 percent annually since the mid-1980s among adults age 20–39. For the 39 years encompassed in the study, rectal cancer rates grew 3.2 percent annually for adults age 20–39.

“Colon and rectal cancer have, historically, affected older men and women. But the most recent research shows an increase in the number of adults in their twenties and thirties who are being diagnosed with these cancers, particularly rectal cancer, and this requires doctors and patients to sit up and take notice,” says Dr. Marks.

What about people with a high risk of colorectal cancer?

If you’re already at an increased risk for colorectal cancer as a result of your lifestyle or family history, you may need to begin screenings at an earlier age. Talk to your health care provider about your risk factors and what age you should begin screenings.

People who are at high or increased risk for colorectal cancer can include those with:

  • A family or personal history of colon or rectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
  • A family or personal history of other cancers: ovarian, uterine, gastric and breast.
  • A history of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • A personal history of radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area as a result of cancer treatment.

Your options for colorectal cancer screening

The ACS’ new guidelines also issue recommendations about colorectal cancer screening methods. While colonoscopy remains the gold standard for both the detection and treatment of colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps, other options are available. In its new guidelines, the ACS recommends choosing from six different types of screening tests:

  • Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test annually
  • Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test annually
  • Multi-targeted stool DNA test every three years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) every five years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years

These screening recommendations are for every patient, and it does not matter which method you choose. However, if a test is positive, make sure to follow up with your health care provider, as you will then require a colonoscopy.

“If one of these screenings tests is positive, get a colonoscopy for a more accurate diagnosis,” explains Dr. Marks. “A colonoscopy can detect potentially cancerous polyps and lesions before they develop into cancer or a more progressive form of cancer.”

Don’t delay a colorectal screening

If you’re noticing any of the following symptoms of colorectal cancer—regardless of your age or health status—call your health care provider:

  • A change in bowel habits, like diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

These can be early signs of colorectal cancer, and timely treatment can affect your choice of treatment options and survival.

Clinical care, scientific research and physician education

The Colorectal Center at Lankenau Medical Center serves as a laboratory for the exploration, development and clinical application of advanced technology with emphasis on minimally invasive procedures. The center also provides a fellowship and advanced postgraduate educational programs for surgeons and multidisciplinary specialists, as well as informational services for health care personnel and the public, which includes primary and secondary prevention.

To schedule an appointment with a colorectal specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.

About Main Line Health

Founded in 1985, Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system serving Philadelphia and its western suburbs. Main Line Health's commitment—to deliver advanced medicine for treating and curing disease, playing an important role in prevention and disease management as well as training physicians and other health care providers—reflects our intent to be the region's premier choice for clinical care, research, and education. A team of more than 10,000 employees, 3,000 nurses and 2,000 physicians care for patients throughout the Main Line Health System.

At Main Line Health's core are four of the region's most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation's premier facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital.

Main Line Health also includes Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, which includes skilled home health care, hospice and home infusion services; Main Line Health Centers, primary and specialty care, lab and radiology, and other outpatient services located in Broomall, Collegeville, Concordville, Exton, King of Prussia and Newtown Square; Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research organization; and Main Line HealthCare, one of the region's largest multispecialty physician networks.

Main Line Health is the recipient of numerous awards for quality care, and service, including U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, System Magnet® designation; the nation's highest distinction for nursing excellence and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence (MAAPE) Excellence Award. Main Line Health is committed to creating an environment of diversity, respect, equity, and inclusion, has proudly received awards in this area and has embraced the American Hospital Association's #123forEquity Pledge to Act to eliminate disparities in care. We are dedicated to advancing patient-centered care, education, and research to help patients stay healthy and live their best lives.

For more information, visit mainlinehealth.org and connect with us on social media:

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About Lankenau Medical Center

Lankenau Medical Center, a member of Main Line Health, is recognized as a national leader in advancing new options to diagnose and treat illness, protect against disease and save lives. Located on a 93-acre campus just outside of Philadelphia, Lankenau Medical Center is a 371-bed, not-for-profit teaching hospital that includes one of the nation’s leading cardiovascular centers; the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, one of the few freestanding hospital-associated research centers in the nation; and the Annenberg Conference Center for Medical Education, that trains over 100 new physicians each year through nationally ranked residency and fellowship programs. Lankenau has received both regional and national recognition for its excellence in providing state-of-the-art, quality care. Lankenau Medical Center has been named among the top 10 hospitals in Pennsylvania and top five in the Philadelphia metro area in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals 2020–21, and was ranked as high-performing in abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, aortic valve surgery, colon cancer surgery, gastroenterology & GI surgery, geriatrics, heart bypass surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement, lung cancer surgery and nephrology. Lankenau has achieved The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for stroke care and breast cancer care and is one of the nation’s Top Performing Hospitals for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care. Lankenau has also been ranked for multiple years as one of the top 50 cardiovascular hospitals in the nation by Truven Health Analytics. Lankenau has also earned the highest distinction for excellence in nursing care, the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet® designation.