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Colorectal Cancer - Prevention

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 cancer.

Colorectal cancer screening guidelines for people 50 and older at average risk
TestFrequency

Stool 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

or

Sigmoidoscopy*

Every 5 years

or

Colonoscopy

Every 10 years

or

Computed tomographic colonography (CTC), also called a virtual colonoscopy

Every 5 years

*Others recommend 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?
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