RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After Democratic U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin’s passing Monday night after a battle with colorectal cancer, health professionals in Central Virginia are putting attention towards the deadly disease.

The recommended age for an individual to get a colonoscopy used to be 50 years old, but has since been lowered to 45 years old.

Doctor Nicole Wieghard with VCU’s Massey Cancer Center explained the cause of this change.

“We have been seeing an increase in younger colorectal cancers,” Wieghard said.

While colorectal cancer typically becomes increasingly pressing with age, Wieghard shared how — when it comes to treatment — the stage in which the cancer is detected is more important than the age of the patient.

“If we catch colorectal cancer very early, all that’s needed oftentimes is surgery alone, so not needing chemotherapy or other therapies,” Wieghard said.

While stomach pain usually isn’t cause for immediate panic, health experts say — even if you’re under 45 years of age — colorectal cancer shouldn’t be immediately ruled out. Anyone who exhibits symptoms like unusual abdominal pain or bowel movements should consider getting a colonoscopy. This is particularly important for individuals who have a family history of the disease.

“A 20-year-old may not be recommended immediately to a colonoscopy,” Wieghard said. “Whereas a 50-year-old who hasn’t had a scope will be recommended immediately, so some of it is if it’s not at the forefront of somebody’s mind.”

Angele Russell with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance met and spoke with Rep. McEachin prior to his passing from the disease, she explained how he was an advocate for people to get screened sooner, rather than later.

She said colonoscopies are the “gold standard,” for catching the disease as symptoms often don’t present themselves until the cancer has become aggressive.

Russel shared a key takeaway from her interaction with Rep. McEachin.

“He was 52 at the time of diagnosis,” Russel said. “But the one thing he kept saying is if the screening age had been what it is now, which is 45, he may not have had colon cancer at all, so one of the things he kept harping on, or really imploring, was for people to know their risk and get screened.”

More information on available resources for colorectal cancer screenings, treatment, or general information can be found online.