What Is Colorectal Cancer Screening?

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By Brianna Siciliano

A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have symptoms. (When a person has symptoms, diagnostic tests are used to find out the cause of the symptoms.) Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. Screening Guidelines Regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years.

When Should I Begin to Get Screened?
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier than 50 or more often than other people if —
• You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
• You have Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
• You have genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)

It is important to speak with your doctor about when you should begin screening and how often you should be tested. Colorectal cancer screening tests may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay.