Colorectal Cancer Screening Exams

How often you get tested for colon cancer and rectal cancer depends on your chances for getting the disease.

Having one or more risks for colorectal cancer does not mean you will definitely get the disease. It means that you may be more likely to get colorectal cancer. If you are at increased or high risk for colorectal cancer, you may need to start screening exams at an earlier age or be tested more often. Look at the lists below to find out if you are at average, increased or high risk for colorectal cancer.

Average Risk

Men and women at average risk of colorectal cancer include those who have:

  • No personal history of colorectal cancer or precancerous colon polyps (adenomas)
  • No family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous colon polyps (adenomas)
  • No personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (chronic ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • No personal history of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis or suspected Familial Adenomatous Polyposis without yet having undergone genetic testing
  • No personal history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or a family history of Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer

If you fit this description, you should follow ONE of the guidelines below:

Age 50 and older, you should:

  1. Get a colonoscopy every 10 years. This test is preferred by MD Anderson to find colorectal cancer and prevent the disease by removing polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths that may become cancer.
  2. Have a virtual colonoscopy (also called Computed Tomographic Colonography) every five years. A colonoscopy will be performed if polyps are found.
  3. Take a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) every year. This take-home test finds hidden blood in the stool. This may be a sign of cancer. The FOBT may not prevent colorectal cancer. If the doctor finds blood in your stool, you will need a colonoscopy to look for the cause of the blood in your stool.

If you choose a virtual colonoscopy, check with your insurance provider before scheduling an exam. Not all insurance providers cover the cost of this exam.

SUN does not recommend colorectal cancer screening for men and women age 85 and older. Screening for adults ages 76 to 85 should be considered on an individual basis after a review of the risks and benefits with a health care provider.

These screening guidelines apply to men and women who are expected to live for at least another 10 years. The guidelines are not for men and women who have a health condition that would make it hard for a health care provider to find and treat colorectal cancer.

Increased Risk

Men and women at increased risk have a higher chance of getting colorectal cancer than those at average risk.  Men and women at increased risk include those who have a:

  • Personal history of precancerous colon polyps (adenomas)
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps (adenomas), meaning that a family member had or has colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps

If you fit this description, you should follow ONE of the guidelines below.

Age 50 and older, you should:

  1. Get a colonoscopy every 10 years. This test is preferred by MD Anderson to find colorectal cancer and prevent the disease by removing polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths that may become cancer.
  2. Have a virtual colonoscopy (also called Computed Tomographic Colonography) every five years. A colonoscopy will be performed if polyps are found.
  3. Take a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) every year. This take-home test finds hidden blood in the stool. This may be a sign of cancer. The FOBT may not prevent colorectal cancer. If the doctor finds blood in your stool, you will need a colonoscopy to look for the cause of the blood in your stool.

If you choose a virtual colonoscopy, check with your insurance provider before scheduling an exam. Not all insurance providers cover the cost of this exam.

MD Anderson does not recommend colorectal cancer screening for men and women age 85 and older. Screening for adults ages 76 to 85 should be considered on an individual basis after a review of the risks and benefits with a health care provider.

These screening guidelines apply to men and women who are expected to live for at least another 10 years. The guidelines are not for men and women who have a health condition that would make it hard for a health care provider to find and treat colorectal cancer.

High Risk

Men and women at high risk for colorectal cancer have a greater chance of getting the disease than those at increased risk. This includes those who have a:

  • Personal history of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis or suspected Familial Adenomatous Polyposis without yet having undergone genetic testing
  • Personal history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer or family history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (chronic ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)

 

Colorectal Screening: High Risk

If you are at high risk for colorectal cancer, you are at higher risk of getting the disease than someone at increased risk. MD Anderson recommends different screening schedules for each type of high risk group.  These guidelines are for men and women without any colorectal cancer symptoms. If you have any symptoms, you should see your health care provider as soon as possible.

Personal history of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis or suspected of having Familial Adenomatous Polyposis without having undergone genetic testing, you should:

  • Get a flexible sigmoidoscopy every year beginning at age 10 to 12 to determine if you are developing polyps
  • Talk to a genetic counselor and consider genetic testing. If a genetic test is positive, talk to your health care provider about when surgery to remove the colon (colectomy) should be considered.

Personal history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer or you have a family history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer, you should:

  • Get a colonoscopy every one to two years beginning at age 20 to 25, or 10 years before the youngest case in the immediate family (parent, brother, sister, son or daughter). For example, if the youngest case in your family was someone age 23, you should begin testing at age 13.
  • Talk to a genetic counselor about genetic testing if there is a family history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer

Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease), you should:

  • Get a colonoscopy every one to two years with biopsies to find dysplasia (abnormal cells)
  • Begin colonoscopy 12 to 15 years after colitis begins in the left side of the colon

Chronic ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), you should:

  • Get a colonoscopy every one to two years with biopsies to find dysplasia (abnormal cells)
  • Begin colonoscopy eight years after colitis begins in the en

SUN does not recommend colorectal cancer screening for men and women age 85 or older. Screening for adults ages 76 to 85 should be considered on an individual basis by a health care provider.

These screening guidelines apply to men and women who are expected to live for at least another 10 years. The guidelines are not for men and women who have a health condition that would make it hard for a health care provider to find and treat colorectal cancer.