HEALTH

Cancer screening timelines have a big influence based on family history

Jan 22, 2024, 2:00 PM

Timelines for cancer screenings are getting earlier and earlier as scientists and doctors learn mor...

The mammogram screening room in the Huntsman Cancer Institute's new cancer screening bus is pictured during a preview event at the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The door on the left opens to a wheelchair lift, allowing accessibility to anyone in need of a screening. (Colter Peterson/Deseret News)

(Colter Peterson/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The latest recommendations for cancer screenings say to get screened for breast cancer at 40 years old, and colon cancer at 45. But what other cancers should we screen for?

That all depends on our personal and family histories.

“We need our family members to speak up and share their medical history,” said Dr. Nathan Merriman, Medical Director of Gastroenterology and Digestive Health at Intermountain Health. “If there is a personal history of cancer that runs in the family, that impacts risk to other family members. We won’t know about that risk unless our patients talk to their family.”

Related: New research suggests breast cancer screenings should be done much earlier

So, for gastrointestinal cancer screening and prevention, the doctor recommends starting at age 45 unless there is a family history.

A family history of cancer means a different screening process

Merriman emphasizes that the general recommendations of when to screen for what kind of cancer can change drastically based on your family history.

“The general recommendation is if there is a first-degree relative who has colon cancer at a given age, then we start screening family members 10 years younger,” he said. “So, if someone is diagnosed with cancer at 25, then all their siblings and/or children would need to be screened starting at age 15.”

The doctor says the goal is what he calls informed shared decision-making. This is decision-making based on knowledge of family history and the best medical recommendations. Making wise decisions for you and your family depends on knowing your risk.

Related: Intermountain Health expands breast cancer appointments to Saturdays

“For example, stool-based testing for colon cancer when there is a strong family history of colon cancer is not informed decision-making,” said Merriman.

Other cancer screenings?

The American Cancer Society updated its screening guidelines a few months ago for lung cancer. If you smoke a pack a day for 20 years or more, and you’re between the ages of 50 and 80, you should get screened.

Women should be screened for cervical cancer once every three years from age 21-65.

The current recommendation for prostate cancer is that it is an “individual decision” on whether men should be screened between ages 55-69.

Personal genome

We hear a lot lately about our personal genomes. Have we reached the time when each of us can test our DNA to see what cancers we might be at greater risk for?

“We’re getting there,” Merriman said. “That is where we’re getting to in the next several years, and it is fantastic.”

The doctor hopes learning about individual genomes will help them catch some of the cancers that are being missed.

“What we have right now are many, many young patients being diagnosed with colon cancer in their 20s, 30s and early 40s that we’re not picking up on screening,” he explained. “There are pockets of increased risk that we don’t understand. I’m hoping the genetic information will help us.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Health

utah department of health shown, the department is dealing with a medicaid related outage...

Heather Kelly

Medicaid members in Utah affected by nationwide outage

Utah Medicaid asked local pharmacies to provide a free 30-day supply to high-risk patients affected by the outage.

26 minutes ago

Marijuana grows at Tryke Companies Utah's medical cannabis cultivation facility in Tooele...

Michael Camit

Ironing out Utah’s Medical Cannabis Program

Medical marijuana is one of Utah's most regulated substances, but lawmakers are still trying to iron out the wrinkles in the program.

4 days ago

North American hospitals are seeing a major increase -- 416% over the last two decades -- in teen m...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Decades-long study shows increase in eating disorders among young males

The study showed hospitalizations for young males with eating disorders were up 139%, and even higher in young teens.

4 days ago

Containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored in liquid nitrogen at a fertility clinic in ...

Jessica Lowell

The future of IVF in Utah following the Alabama Supreme Court embryo ruling

One expert says they won't know if Utah would interpret its wrongful death statute the same way Alabama did until a case came up .

4 days ago

Doctors analyze a screening of a colon...

Don Brinkerhoff

Younger colon cancer deaths are increasing significantly

Colon cancer deaths are rising and people are dying at a much younger age according to the American Cancer Society.

4 days ago

Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Provo, speaks about HB261 at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 19,...

Aimee Cobabe

Lawmaker wants to increase maximum amount of time for involuntary civil commitments

Utah lawmakers are supporting a bill to increase the maximum amount of time for involuntary civil commitments.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Cancer screening timelines have a big influence based on family history