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What Are Current Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines?

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Updated March 15, 2012

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What Are Current Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines?

Talk to your doctor about colon cancer screening.

Photo: Jochen Sands/Getty Images
Question: What Are Current Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines?

The guidelines for colon cancer screening are vitally important for preventing deaths. Yet only 1 out of 5 (just 20% of) doctors follow current colon cancer screening guidelines for their patients. Educate yourself on which guidelines apply to you.

Answer:

Colon cancer screening guidelines differ, depending on an individual's risk for developing the disease. The American Cancer Society recommends the following:

First, consider your personal risk for colon cancer. Are you at average or high risk? How do you know?

You are at average risk if all of the following are true for you:

If you do not fall into any of the above categories, colon cancer screening should begin at age 50 for men and women. Acceptable strategies for screening for precancerous polyps and colon cancer include:

*If any of the marked tests are abnormal (shows a polyp or other growth) a full colonoscopy should be performed.

The above tests are preferred over the ones below, which can only detect colon cancer, not precancerous polyps:

Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines for People at Higher Colon Cancer Risk

If you are at above average risk for colon cancer, you likely need to begin colon cancer screening earlier than age 50. You also may need to be screened more often than someone at average risk.

You have a higher-than-average risk for colon cancer if any of the following are true:

If any of these describe you, your first step is to talk with your doctor to determine which colon cancer screening schedule is best for you.

In addition to this, you should familiarize yourself with the detailed colon cancer screening recommendations for people at increased or high risk from the American Cancer Society. Keep in mind that the guidelines change as technology changes. Most gastroenterologists feel that a regular colonoscopy is still the best test for preventing colon cancer.

Sources

Yabroff, K. Robin; et al. "Are Physicians’ Recommendations For Colorectal Cancer Screening Guideline-Consistent?" J Gen Intern Med. 2011 February; 26(2): 177–184. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3019313/

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