The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk for colon cancer get a first colonoscopy at age 50, with a follow-up screening every 10 years thereafter. This guideline holds as long as no "high-risk" growths, the ones that are most likely to develop into colon cancer, are identified during screening. When high-risk growths are found, there isn't a standard recommendation as to when a person should be screened again.
New research suggests that the best way to determine when to next screen people who have had a high-risk colon growth, is to look at more than just their most recent colonoscopy results. Considering at least two past colonoscopies appears to help doctors make a better prediction as to who can benefit the most from follow-up colon cancer screening sooner and more often.
It turns out that even people who have had a high-risk colon growth can go up to 10 years between screening, if their 2 most recent colonoscopies have been "clean" - that is, have not found any high-risk growths in the colon.
This is good news for people who are wrestling with the dilemma of when and how often to be screened for colon cancer if they've had colon growths found on past colonoscopies. Research that helps identify which patients can benefit the most from more aggressive screening can be used to guide that decision process.
But don't forget that even with this new research, the most important thing you can do if you have questions about what cancer screening schedule is best for you, is to talk to your doctor.