What Should I Know About Screening?
What Is Colorectal Cancer Screening?
- If you are age 50 to 75 years old, you should get screened for colorectal cancer.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening beginning at age 50. Some groups recommend starting earlier, at age 45.
- The vast majority of new cases of colorectal cancer (about 90%) occur in people who are 50 or older.
- Millions of people in the United States are not getting screened as recommended. They are missing the chance to prevent colorectal cancer or find it early, when treatment often leads to a cure.
- Less than half of adults aged 50 to 54 are up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening.
- Screening rates are much lower among adults who are 50 to 64 years old than among those 65 or older.
- If you think you may be at increased risk for colorectal cancer, learn your family health history and ask your doctor if you should begin screening before age 50.
A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have symptoms. (When a person has symptoms, diagnostic tests are used to find out the cause of the symptoms.)
Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.
Regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults age 50 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. The USPSTF recommends that adults age 76 to 85 ask their doctor if they should be screened.
When Should I Begin to Get Screened?
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier than 50, or more often than other people, if—
- You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- You have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
If you think you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about—
- When to begin screening.
- Which test is right for you.
- How often to get tested.
Free or Low-Cost Screening
Six states in CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program provide colorectal cancer screening to some people. Those eligible are low-income men and women aged 50 to 64 years who are underinsured or uninsured for screening, when resources are available and there is no other payment option.
Colorectal cancer screening tests may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay.