Colon Cancer Screening Procedures

What are screening tests?

Screening tests are used to check for a disease such as colon cancer in people who do not have symptoms to suggest that disease and have not previously had that disease. In many cases these tests can find colorectal cancers at an early stage and greatly improve the chances of successful treatment. Some of these cancers can also be found early if people report any symptoms right away to their doctors.

At what age should colon cancer screening begin?

Current recommendations indicate that colon cancer screening should begin for both men and women at age 50 for individuals at average risk for the disease. Individuals in the moderate to high-risk categories should be screened starting at age 40. People, of any age who think they may be at risk or have symptoms such as rectal bleeding are encouraged to speak with their physician about the need for screening.

Who is at risk for developing colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer—cancer of the large intestine and rectum—is second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths it causes. On average, one in 20 people will develop the disease in the course of a lifetime. Ninety percent of cases occur in men and women over age 50. The majority of cases occur in people with no known medical risk factors for colorectal cancer. However, factors known to sharply increase risk include:

  • Personal or family history of colorectal cancer.
  • Personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease—ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s.
  • Personal or family history of ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer.
  • People of African American and Hispanic descent, who are often diagnosed at a later stage of the disease.
  • Men and women over the age of 50.
  • Men and women who use tobacco.

Why should you have screening tests done?

  • Screening can prevent cancer by removing pre-cancerous growths (polyps).
  • Early detection can diagnosis already formed cancers before they have a chance to spread.

What are my options?

There are several tests used to screen for colorectal cancer.

  • Barium Enema (Barium X-ray)
  • Colonoscopy
  • DNA Stool Test
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)