Colon Cancer Home > Colon Cancer Screening

If colon cancer is detected in its early stages, it's easier to treat. Tests used in screening for this disease include fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), colonoscopies, and barium enemas. People 50 years of age and older should be screened for colon cancer; people at higher-than-average risk for the disease may need to be screened earlier in life.

Screening for Colon Cancer: An Introduction

Colon cancer screening refers to testing people for the disease when they have no symptoms. Screening can help the doctor find polyps or cancer in the early stages. Finding and removing polyps may prevent colorectal cancer. Also, treatment for colon cancer is more likely to be effective when the disease is found early.

Colon Cancer Screening and Intervals

To find polyps or early colon cancer:
  • People in their 50s and older should be screened
  • People who are at higher-than-average risk of colorectal cancer should talk with their doctor about whether to have screening tests before age 50, what tests to have, the benefits and risks of each test, and how often to schedule appointments.
Several scientific organizations recommend regular screening test intervals as follows:

Types of Screening Tests

The following screening tests for colon cancer are used to detect polyps, cancer, or other abnormalities in the colon and rectum:
  • Digital rectal exam
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Barium enema.
Rectal Exam
A rectal exam is often part of a routine physical examination. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel for abnormal areas.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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