According to the American Cancer Society, people of average risk should be screened as follows:
- Start regular screening at age 50
- If in good health, continue regular screening through age 75
- People age 76 – 85, the decision to be screened should be based on preference, life expectancy, overall health and prior screening history.
- People over 85 should no longer get screened
Patients at increased risk for colorectal cancer may need to start screening earlier, be screened more often or get specific tests. These decisions should be made with the help of your doctor.
Colon cancer screening is recommended for those aged 50 – 75. Screening is particularly important for those with certain risk factors, or those showing signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer. There are two primary types of screenings:
- Visual exams: These tests look at the structure of the colon and rectum to check for abnormalities through use of a scope.
- Colonoscopy: Patient are sedated for this outpatient procedure, in which doctors use a thin, flexible tube to view the colon for polyps and/or abnormal tissue. Tissue can be taken from areas of concern and polyps can be removed if necessary. Recommended every 10 years.
- CT colonography (“virtual colonoscopy”): Doctors search for abnormal cells in the colon with X-rays and computer imaging. Recommended every five years.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Patients are sedated for this outpatient procedure, in which doctors use a thin, flexible tube to view the rectum for polyps and/or abnormal tissue. Recommended every five years.
- Stool-based tests: These tests check the stool (feces) for signs of cancer. They are less invasive and easier to perform; however, they must be done more often.
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): This test checks for occult (hidden) blood in the stool, a common sign of polyps or cancer. This test is done annually and can be done from the comfort of your own home. Your health care provider will provide you with the necessary supplies for testing and the sample can be mailed in for analysis. Recommended annually.
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT): This test find blood in the stool through a chemical reaction and can be done in the privacy of your own home. Recommended annually.
- Stool DNA tests (sDNA): Doctors look at a large sample of your stool for any changes in the DNA makeup. Recommended every three years
Talk to your primary care provider about when and how often you should be screened based on your age, family history and other risk factors. If you do not have a primary care provider, CAMC can help you find one at one of the following locations: