UCI Health supports colorectal cancer awareness

Early screening can prevent colorectal cancer

March 01, 2022

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In the U.S., excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths when men and women are combined. UCI Health continues to be at the forefront of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Colorectal cancer claims more than 50,000 lives annually and the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 106,180 new cases of colon cancer and 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year.

Dr. William Karnes, UCI Health gastroenterologist and director of High-Risk Program and Colonoscopy Quality for the UCI Health Digestive Health Institute, believes the increase of new cases is due to people delaying screenings during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He has also seen an increase of cases in patients younger than 45.

“Screening guidelines are important to follow,” urges Karnes. “Colorectal cancer does not have to be fatal and can be treated if you don’t delay screening.” 

In 2018, the ACS changed its recommended screening age to 45 from age 50. More recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) also updated their recommendations to match the ACS. Guidelines include:

Stool-based tests:

  • Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
  • Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every 3 years

Visual exams:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every 5 years

Karnes recommends patients start screening at age 40 if they have a family history, or ten years before the age the family member was when they received a diagnosis—if a family member was diagnosed at the age of 45, you should get screened at age 35.

Easing barriers to colonoscopies

The UCI Health Digestive Health Institute provides clinical innovation and world-class care. For more than a dozen years, this team has improved digestive health practices all over the world through the annual UCI Health Gastroenterology & Hepatology Symposium.

The Digestive Health Institute has also been working towards easing barriers to colonoscopies. Colonoscopy remains the gold standard for detecting and preventing potential cases. UCI Health efforts to improve colonoscopies include building artificial intelligence into colonoscopies to make them more effective screening tools.

To increase access for colorectal cancer screenings and prevention, the Digestive Health Institute has made Saturday appointments available.

“We hope the convenience of an additional screening day will encourage more patients, especially young adults, to get screened early and regularly,” said Dr. Kenneth Chang, executive director of the UCI Health Digestive Health Institute.

To schedule a colonoscopy, call 888-717-4463.

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system in Orange County. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif. The 459-bed acute care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 21 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.