Screening for colorectal cancer
Some tests can prevent
colorectal cancer. Screening tests look for a certain
disease or condition before any symptoms appear. Experts recommend routine
colon cancer testing for everyone age 50 and older who has a normal risk for
colon cancer. Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent testing if you have a higher risk for colon cancer. Talk to
your doctor about when you should be tested.
Fewer than half of
people who are older than 50 are screened for colorectal cancer. According to
the American Cancer Society, if everyone were tested, tens of thousands of
lives could be saved each year.
The following guidelines are for
people who do not have an increased risk for colorectal
Colorectal cancer screening guidelines for people 50 and older at average risk
test,* such as the
fecal occult blood test (FOBT), fecal
immunochemical test (FIT), or stool DNA test (sDNA)
Every year for the FOBT and FIT
Every 5 years for sDNA
| Every 5 years|
| Every 10 years|
Computed tomographic colonography (CTC), also called a virtual colonoscopy
combining a stool test with a sigmoidoscopy.
Recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
- People ages 50 to 75 should have a fecal occult blood test
(FOBT), sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy.
- People who have a sigmoidoscopy every 5 years should also have a stool test (FOBT) at regular intervals.
- Some people older than 75
may benefit from screening tests. Others may not. Talk to your doctor about
continuing testing for colon cancer after age 75.
Recommendations from other groups
- The American Cancer Society (ACS), the American
Gastroenterological Association (AGA), and the American College of
Gastroenterologists (ACG) recommend routine testing for people age 50 and older
who have an average risk for colon cancer. Your doctor may advise being tested sooner or more often if you have a higher risk for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.
For more information, see:
- Colon Cancer: Which Screening Test Should I Have?
Here are other things you can do to help prevent colorectal
- Watch your weight. Being very overweight may increase your risk. And carrying extra fat around the waist seems to be more of a risk than carrying extra fat in the hips or thighs.
- Eat well. Healthy eating includes a variety of foods. Eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry, and fish. And eat less red meat, refined grains, and sweets.
- Limit alcohol. Have less than 2 drinks a day. People who have 2 or more drinks a day have a slightly higher risk
for colorectal cancer.2
- Get active. Keep up a physically active lifestyle. Being fit helps you look better and feel better and stronger.
- Quit smoking. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk.
If you have a
very strong family history of colon cancer, you may want to talk to your doctor or a
genetic counselor about having a blood test to look for changed genes.
Genetic testing can tell you if you carry a
changed, or mutated, gene that can cause colon cancer. Having certain genes
greatly increases your risk of colon cancer. But most cases of colon cancer aren't caused by changed genes.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Kenneth Bark, MD - Surgery, Colon and Rectal
January 29, 2013
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