Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is preventable by identifying and removing polyps that can turn into cancer.

People at normal risk should get tested regularly starting at age 50. Family history increases the risk of getting CRC. Talk with your doctor about when you need to start getting tested.

CRC remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the US. In 2009, it is estimated that more than 145,000 people were diagnosed with CRC. This kind of cancer will take 50,000 lives in the nation this year alone.

If everyone were checked for CRC, the death rate could drop to as low as 5,000 per year. Many tests are currently available (see table below).

Visit your physician today to talk about colorectal cancer screening.

Procedure

Description

Pros

Cons

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A long flexible tool is used to examine the inside of the rectum to the lower colon. A biopsy can then be done.

Can be done in the doctor’s office; does not require sedation.

Does not check the full colon.

Colonoscopy

A long flexible tube is used to examine the inside of the rectum to the colon.

Can examine the full colon.

Requires sedation and complete emptying of the bowels.

Barium Enema

The colon is filled with barium and X-rayed to examine the colon and rectum.

Relatively safe; can be used to examine the entire colon.

Can miss small polyps; test can sometimes come back positive when nothing is wrong.

Fecal Occult Test (Guaiac)

Stool samples are collected and tested for blood.

Low cost; can be done at home; not as reliable as other tests.

Test can miss smaller polyps.

Stool DNA Test

Stool samples are collected and tested for irregular DNA changes.

Fairly easy to do; can be done at home.

May miss smaller polyps; more expensive than other regular stool tests.