March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. But let’s not let the transformation occur without recognizing it’s finer attributes. Caesar was bludgeoned during the Ides of March. There is the madness of college basketball finales. We spring forward to a normal time zone when there is still daylight when you get home from work. And we get to think about our colons! It’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month, y’all!! Holla!
Colon cancer is common and it’s preventable. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States (after lung cancer). Roughly 150,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year and roughly 50,000 people die from it. Six percent of American deaths each year is due to colon cancer, that is one in 17. Colon cancer starts as a polyp. It’ s a growth in the lining of the colon that causes no symptoms. Most polyps never turn in to cancer but nearly all cancers start out as polyps. So if you can find and remove these polyps then one need not die of colon cancer. The biggest risk for having polyps is age. A first degree (mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter) family member with either polyps or colon cancer is the second biggest risk.
For years, the recommendation was to start colon cancer prevention at age 50 as over 93% of people that died of colon cancer were above that age. Over the last decade we’ve seen a change in that trend. We are increasingly seeing people between the ages fo 20 to 50 that are getting diagnosed with colon cancer. The risk continues to be age related. Now, roughly 88% of people who die of colon cancer of above age 50. A drop of 5%. (I so wish I could draw a curved graph depicting colon cancer mortality on the y axis and age on the x axis, then show how the shape of the curve hasn’t changed. Only that there has been a shift in the percentages to the left, leaning towards younger ages).
In October 2020, the US Preventative Task Force, which is more of a driving force of clinical practice, issued a “preliminary recommendation” agreeing that age 45 was an appropriate time to start preventative strategies. That recommendation was finalized in January 2021.
However, just because the ACS, the USPTF, and the ACG recommend that you ought not die of colon cancer, doesn’t mean that your insurance company agrees. We can recommend till the cows come home, but someone has to pay for it. There is a bill at the Texas House of Representatives right now HB 2250 sponsored by Represetative Julie Johnson D-Farmer’s Branch that would guarantee that insurance companies would have to cover colon cancer prevention at age 45 for those people that wanted it. It is being heard in then House Insurance Committee.