Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Colon Cancer Screening: Any Test Better Than No Test at All


Researcher Ernest Hawk, MD, of the National Cancer Institute, agrees. The biggest factor in reducing deaths from colon cancer is not which test a patient has, he says, but getting patients to be tested at all. Hawk is chief of the Gastrointestinal and Other Cancers Research Group for the Institute's Division of Cancer Prevention.

"Each of these tests has limitations and benefits. Because this decision is so complex, it probably should be left to those being tested," he tells WebMD. "There is no question that doing something with regard to testing is better than doing nothing. Everyone who is older than 50 should undergo some form of colorectal cancer screening."

Edward Leigh believes that routine testing should begin at age 40 with a colonoscopy to start with, and he points out that 10% of colon cancers in the U.S. are diagnosed in those under the age of 50. He adds those with symptoms should be checked for the disease immediately -- no matter what their age.

"My primary care physician lacked an understanding about colon cancer, but even those who do know about the disease often don't think about it when a younger person presents with symptoms," he says.

Hawk says new techniques may soon make the testing decision much less complicated for both patients and doctors. He points to a preliminary study, published recently by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., showing that DNA abnormalities specific to colon cancer can be measured through stool testing -- an indication that DNA testing may one day be an options. More studies of the technique are underway.

"If this turns out to be an accurate test to identify cancer and polyps through a stool-based method, it should greatly improve compliance," Hawk says. "Stool based tests are in many ways more attractive than endoscopic tests."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
The right diagnosis is the most important factor.
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
bladder cancer x-ray
Do you know the warning signs?
Colon vs Rectal Cancer
New Colorectal Treatments
can lack of sleep affect your immune system
Cancer Facts Quiz
Virtual Colonoscopy
Picture of the Colon
Vitamin D