Topic Overview

For people at an average risk for colorectal (colon) cancer

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has the following advice for colorectal cancer testing:1

The American Cancer Society (ACS), the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology recommend routine testing for people age 50 and older who have a normal risk for colon cancer. They also have recommendations for other tests, such as virtual colonoscopy (CTC) and the stool DNA test (sDNA).2

Talk with your doctor about which test is best for you.

Experts agree that people with a higher risk, such as those who have a strong family history of colon cancer, may need to be tested sooner. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.

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

Stool test, such as the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or the fecal occult blood test (FOBT)

Every year



Every 5 years*



Every 10 years

*Some experts recommend combining a stool test with a sigmoidoscopy.

Less common screening tests include the stool DNA test (sDNA) and computed tomographic colonography (CTC).

Colon Cancer: Which Screening Test Should I Have?

For people at an increased risk for colorectal cancer

Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent testing if you:


What to think about

Virtual colonoscopy uses computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to make a three-dimensional image of the interior lining of your large intestine camera.gif. It may be used as a test for people who do not have an increased risk for colon cancer or for people who cannot have a colonoscopy. For people who have an increased risk for colon cancer, regular colonoscopy may be better because it permits tissue biopsies or polyp removal. Virtual colonoscopy is not widely available, and the cost may not be covered by insurance.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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