Colon Cancer Home > Rectal Cancer Screening

During a colonoscopy for rectal cancer screening, the doctor examines inside the rectum and entire colon using a long, lighted tube called a colonoscope. The doctor removes any polyps that may be found.
Barium Enema
A barium enema is a test involving a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum. The patient is given an enema that contains a barium solution, and air is pumped into the rectum. The barium and air outline the colon and rectum on the x-rays. Polyps may show up on the x-ray.

Rectal Cancer Screening and Intervals

To find polyps or early rectal 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:
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years.


Rectal Cancer Screening: A Summary

Rectal cancer screening is an important part of any person's healthcare. Starting at the age of 50 people should begin getting screened for rectal cancer. For those with risk factors for rectal cancer, screening should begin even earlier. No matter how old you are, and especially if you have rectal cancer risk factors, you should ask for medical advice about when to begin having rectal cancer screening and how often to be screened.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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