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Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer

Photo of couple speaking with a doctorKnow Before You Go

Screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for men and women beginning at age 50. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines for colorectal cancer screening include the following tests—

  • Colonoscopy (once every 10 years).
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test, also known as a stool test (once a year).
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years with FOBT every 3 years).

The benefits and risks of these screening methods vary. Discuss with your doctor [PDF-178KB] which test is best for you, and check with your insurance provider to find out which tests are covered by your insurance plan, and how much you will have to pay. Medicare helps pay for colorectal cancer screening.

Ask Your Doctor

Do I need to get a screening test for colorectal cancer?

  • What screening test(s) do you recommend for me?
  • How do I prepare? Do I need to change my diet or my usual medication schedule?
  • What’s involved in the test? Will it be uncomfortable or painful?
  • Is there any risk involved?
  • When and from whom will I get results?

If you’re having a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, you will want to know—

  • Who will do the exam?
  • Will I need someone with me?

If You’re at Increased Risk

Some people are at increased risk because they have inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome). These people may need to start screening earlier than age 50. If you believe you are at increased risk, ask your doctor if you should begin screening earlier than age 50.

If You’re Having Symptoms

Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms—

  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
  • Losing weight and you don’t know why.

These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know what is causing them is to speak with your doctor about them.