Understanding Medical Problems

FAQs About Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer screening is important for the early detection and treatment of colon cancer. Patients whose colon cancer is detected early through regular screening are more likely to recover with less invasive treatments. However, since colon cancer screening can be a little embarrassing to think and talk about, some people do not know as much about it as they should. Here are some questions you might have.

Why do you need to start colon cancer screening at the age of 45?

The American Cancer Society recommends men and women begin being screened for colon cancer at age 45. This is because 45 is the age at which colon cancer becomes more likely. If you are over 45 and have never been screened for colon cancer, don't worry — you can still make that first appointment, and it is better to do it today than another 10 years down the line. 

Why don't elderly adults still need to be screened for colon cancer?

If you're older, your doctor may have told you that you no longer need colon cancer screening. Or perhaps you recommended an older family member be screened, and their doctor reassured them they didn't need to at their age. The American Cancer Society recommends most people stop screening at 75, and some through the age of 85. Screening can typically stop at this age because if you have not developed colon cancer by that point, it is unlikely that you will. 

Is a colonoscopy always necessary?

A colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening. It allows the doctor to actually see inside your colon. It also enables them to remove any small polyps or growths while you're already sedated and while they're already using the scope. However, there are times when a colonoscopy is not called for. If you have a history of certain GI diseases or you are really sensitive to the sedative medications used, your doctor may recommend a different sort of screening: a fecal test. In this test, a sample of your feces is tested for the presence of cancerous cells. Fecal tests are not as accurate as colonoscopies, but they can still tell the doctor a lot about your colon health.

Hopefully this article has answered some questions you had about colon cancer screening. If you have any additional concerns, bring them to the attention of your doctor. They should be happy to help.