Screening for colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer is the #2 cancer killer of both men and women in the US. But colorectal cancer is a preventable disease. Colorectal cancer starts with a precancerous polyp (abnormal growth) in the colon, which can be removed without surgery. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults of average risk begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. While screening increases as people get older, national targets for screening have not been met. Adults are likely to get screened when healthcare providers talk to them about their options. Adults ages 50–75 should talk to their doctor about when they should be screened.
People in their early 50s delay getting their first colorectal cancer screening test
Many screening test options are available
Not starting screening at 50
Question: What if I don’t have any symptoms?
Answer: Colorectal cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms early on.
Question: Is the test unpleasant or embarrassing?
Answer: There are several kinds of tests that can be done in the clinic or at home. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best option for you.
Question: Do I need to be screened if no one in my family had colorectal cancer?
Answer: Yes. Family history can put you at higher risk, but most colorectal cancers happen in people with no family history.
Healthcare Providers Can:
- Take advantage of any medical visit to tell patients they need to get screened starting at 50.
- Let patients know that there is more than one test option that can be done in the clinic or at home.
- Offer recommended test options with advice about each.
- Use reminder systems to notify patients when to get a test done and if they need follow-up tests.
- Learn about the six different screening test options.
- Talk to your doctor about the best test for you based on your preferences.
- Find out if you’re at higher risk than most people because of family history or other reasons.
- Ask about which tests are covered by insurance.
- Don’t wait: Use age 50 as your time to start screening to prevent colorectal cancer or find it early, when treatments work best.
If you’re going to be 50 years old soon or if you’re in your 50s now and haven’t been screened yet—don’t wait to prevent colorectal cancer.
Take the time for your health. Talk to your doctor about the best test for you based on your preferences—then get that test done.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
Publication date: March 12, 2020