Colon cancer screening should start at 45

In the fight against colon cancer, there are new guidelines when it comes to colonoscopies.

"I mean colonoscopy truly saves lives," said colorectal surgeon Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero.

She's using her experience as a surgeon and a chairman of the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation to encourage more people to be proactive when it comes to colon cancer.

"Colon cancers are happening earlier and earlier," said Dr. Lorenzo. "We want to catch them before they turn into a cancer."

New guidelines recommend people get a colonoscopy at age 45 rather than the previous guidance of age 50.

"That means that the insurance company should start paying for that at a younger age," said Dr. Lorenzo. "It is a screening colonoscopy which is very different from what is called a diagnostic colonoscopy."

Dr. Lorenzo and the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation said this change is especially important here. Chattanooga has higher rates of colon cancer compared to the rest of the country.

"We also have the lowest rates of screening," said Dr. Lorenzo. "So if you don't get your colonoscopy, you don't prevent the colon cancer."

She said some insurance companies may still be catching up when it comes to covering colonoscopies earlier, but the foundation is working to help anyone who may not be able to afford this thousand-dollar procedure.

"We don't want anyone to go without a colonoscopy," said Dr. Lorenzo. "We have relationships with all the hospitals and the physicians in town to help make sure people who aren't covered or under-insured have that opportunity."

Dr. Lorenzo said it's better to be safe than sorry and to encourage others around you to try and detect polyps before they turn into a cancer.

"A cancer you don't just remove the cancer itself, you have the remove all the little lymph notes attached to it," said Dr. Lorenzo. "Now we're talking about much bigger surgery, we're talking about chemotherapy, radiation."

Dr. Lorenzo also stresses that if something is found during your colonoscopy, let your family members know as well.

It changes them from being average risk to high risk and will change how often to get a colonoscopy.

You can learn more at the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation's website.