Colon Cancer: Screening Tests

  • Are done BEFORE you have any symptoms.
  • Can detect growths called polyps so that they can be removed BEFORE they become cancer.
  • Can detect early colon cancers when they are highly curable.
  • Should be done beginning at age 50 for men and women at average risk for colon cancer.
  • For men and women at average risk, the American Cancer Society recommends 1 of these 7 tests, starting at age 50:

Tests That Detect Polyps and Cancers:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years;
    OR
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years;
    OR
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years;
    OR
  • CT colonography every 5 years.

Tests That Detect Primarily Cancers:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
    with high sensitivity for cancer
    every year;
    OR
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
    with high sensitivity for cancer
    every year;
    OR
  • Stool DNA test (interval uncertain)

Note: Men and women at increased or high risk for colon cancer because of a family history of colon polyps or cancer or certain other risk factors should speak with their doctors about starting screening at a younger age.