How Often Do You Need Colon Cancer Screening?

Colorectal cancer refers to colon cancer, rectal cancer, or both. People sometimes use colon cancer interchangeably with colorectal cancer, but colon cancer refers specifically to cancers that start in the colon, or large intestine. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together due to similarity. Also, cancers may initially develop in either the colon or the rectum and spread to both.

Who gets colorectal cancer?

Roughly 90% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, the disease also affects adults younger than 50 years of age. 

Certain risk factors can increase your risk for colon or rectal cancer:

  • personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • personal history of abdominal radiation (treating a previous cancer)
  • family history of colorectal cancer
  • having inflammatory bowel disease

Certain lifestyle choices may also increase a person’s risk for colon or rectal cancers:

  • smoking cigarettes
  • living a sedentary lifestyle
  • eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in animal fats

Colorectal cancer is highly preventable

According to the World Health Organization, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the world. It’s also the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide. However, these cancers are highly preventable. Most cases of colorectal cancer result from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum. These polyps can be detected through screening and removed before cancer develops.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone over the age of 50 had regular colorectal cancer screenings. Click To Tweet

Colon cancer screening is the best way to protect yourself from the disease. Again, most cases of colorectal cancer begin as precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum. Removing these polyps before they become cancer is the most effective way to prevent colorectal cancer.

When should you start screening for colorectal cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends people at an average risk for colorectal cancer start screening at age 45. There are several different tests that can detect colorectal cancer.

  • highly sensitive fecal immunological test (FIT) every year
  • highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
  • multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every three years
  • colonoscopy every 10 years
  • CT colonography every five years
  • flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every five years

If you’re between the ages of 45 and 75, or if you’re younger than 45 but at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about colon cancer screening. Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist.