Colon Cancer Screening

What you need to know about colon cancer

  • If you are 50 or older you are at risk for colon cancer and you should get tested regularly.
  • Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in America, but the great news is that colon testing can save you life and even prevent colon cancer.
  • Testing can find non-cancerous colon polyps or colon cancer early, when they can easily remover or cured. Polyps are small growths that may into cancer if not removed.
  • Colon cancer is most common in men and women over 50.
  • People with a personal history of polyps, colorectal cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease, or a family history of colon cancer or polyps are at higher risk for colon cancer and may need to start being tested before age 50.
  • A family history of other cancers (breast ovarian, or uterine) may also raise the one’s risk for colon cancer.African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews appear to have higher rates of colon cancer.


Early colon cancer often has no symptoms. But, later on, colon cancer symptoms may include rectal bleeding, stomach cramps, weight loss, a change in bowel habits, or just feeling tired. If you have any of the above symptoms, see your doctor to make sure colon cancer isn’t the cause.

How can you lower your risk of colon cancer?

  • Ask relatives about your family’s cancer history.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days.
  • Eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits daily.
  • Avoid tobacco, and drink alcohol in moderation if you drink at all.
  • Try to stay at your ideal weight.

Types of Screening Tests

Fecal Occult Blood Test


  • No bowel preparation
  • Sampling is done at home
  • Cheap
  • Proven effective in clinical trials
  • No Risk of bowl tears or infection


  • May miss many polyps and some cancers
  • May produce false-positive test results
  • Pre-test dietary limitations needed
  • More effective when combined with a flexiblesigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Additional procedures necessary if abnormalities are detected

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy


  • Fairly quick and safe
  • Minimal bowel preparation
  • Done every five years
  • Not that uncomfortable
  • Doesn’t require a specialist


  • Usually views only about a third of the colon
  • Can’t remove all polyps
  • Very small risk of infection or bowel tear
  • More effective when combined with annual fecal occult blood testing
  • Additional procedures if abnormalities are detected




  • Can Usually view entire colon
  • Can biopsy and remove polyps
  • Done every 10 years
  • Can diagnose other diseases


  • Can miss small polyps and cancers
  • Full bowel preparation needed
  • Can be expensive
  • Sedation of some kind usually needed
  • You may miss a day of work
  • Higher risks of bowel tears or infections than other screening methods

Barium Enema


  • Can usually view entire colon
  • Relatively safe
  • Done every five years
  • No sedation needed


  • Can Miss small polyps and cancers
  • Full bowel preparation needed
  • Some false – positive test results
  • Additional procedures necessary if abnormalities are detected


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