Good for you! Why it’s important to say yes to a colorectal cancer test

This vital screening may even help prevent cancer before it starts

Who hasn’t procrastinated? Most of us do it at some point. But if you’re putting off screening for colorectal cancer, you’re missing out on a test that could help save your life.

Screening may spot colorectal cancer early, when it may be easier to treat. Better yet: Getting tested might even help prevent the disease.

Most colorectal cancers start as growths in the colon or rectum called polyps. Some screening tests allow doctors to find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer.

5 fast facts on screening.

  1. When colorectal cancer is caught early, the survival rate is 90 percent.
  2. With most health plans, the cost of colorectal cancer preventive screening is covered at 100 percent.
  3. A hidden threat: You may not have symptoms of colorectal cancer until the disease is advanced — and more deadly.
  4. Less than 2/3 of U.S. adults age 50 and older get the colorectal cancer screening they need.
  5. Colorectal cancer is 1 of only 2 cancers that can be prevented by screening. Cervical cancer is the other one.

Which test is for me?

Colorectal cancer screening is recommended for most people starting at age 50. If you’re at high risk, you may need to be tested sooner. You may also need more frequent testing. Your doctor can help you understand your risk — and discuss screening options with you.

For people at average risk of colon cancer, experts generally suggest using 1 or more tests. Options include but aren’t limited to:*

Stool test.

For this test, you use a kit —at home — to take a small stool sample. The kit is mailed to a lab where it’s tested for blood, a possible sign of cancer. If the results are positive, you’ll need a colonoscopy.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy.

A small, lighted tube is inserted into your rectum. A doctor looks for growths in the rectum and lower part of your colon. If your doctor spots anything unusual, the next step is a colonoscopy.


This is similar to a sigmoidoscopy. But with this test, a doctor can examine your entire colon — and remove most polyps found during the test.

Talking with your doctor is the best way to determine which test to have — and how often. It’s a conversation that may add years to your life.

What to do next

Talk with your doctor about screening for colorectal cancer. Here’s a list of questions you might ask. Take it with you to your next visit.

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Sources: American Cancer Society; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Cancer Institute; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force