Colon Cancer Screening

Welcome. Our guide will help you choose the way you want to be screened for colorectal (colon) cancer.

Here are a few facts to help you understand the importance of being screened for colon cancer:

  • Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

  • An estimated 147,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. About 57,000 people will die from the disease.

  • About five percent of Americans are expected to develop the disease within their lifetime. Men are at slightly higher risk than women.

  • The risk of colon cancer begins to increase after the age of 40. The risk rises sharply between the ages of 50 and 55, and then doubles with each succeeding decade.

Getting screened for colon cancer is one of the best ways to lower your risk of this important disease. It's also a lot easier than many people realize.

Click here to begin using this Decision Guide.

Congratulations for taking an important step toward staying healthy!

Who Needs Screening?

Colon cancer doesn't develop overnight. It takes years to decades for normal cells that line the lower intestine to transform into cancer. Before the emergence of full-blown cancer, these cells must first evolve into growths called polyps. Screening for colon cancer works by detecting and removing these polyps before they become deadly.

Any person can get colon cancer. In fact, one in 20 people will develop colon cancer during their lifetime. Your biggest risk for colon cancer is simply getting older, since the disease becomes more common with each decade after age 50. That's why the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society recommend colon cancer screening for all adults over 50.

Options for Getting Screened

There are several different ways to get screened for colon cancer. You may be aware of some of these tests, but many people don't realize that they can choose between different options. While experts think that some of these screening tests may be better than others, any test to screen for colon cancer is better than no test at all. Getting regular screening may lower your risk of colon cancer by more than half.

Many people need help deciding which screening test makes the most sense for them. Other people maybe confused about how often they need to have follow-up screening. This tool is designed to help you answer some of these important questions. However, keep in mind that this tool cannot substitute for the important conversations that you have with your health care provider. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to speak directly with your doctor.

A Decision Guide That Helps You Choose

This guide works by asking you to answer a series of questions related to your medical history, your preferences about your health care, and your information needs. None of this information is stored, saved, or transferred to anyone else. Once you leave this guide, all answers are discarded and cannot be retrieved.

Let's get started. Some people think they need a screening test when they develop symptoms. Not so. Screening tests are advised for people without any symptoms related to the health condition under consideration. Certain symptoms related to the colon and rectum may require urgent evaluation.

Have you had any of the following symptoms

  • blood in the stool (bowel movement), in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper

  • abdominal pain

  • unexplained weight loss

  • a change in your bowel habits such as new constipation or diarrhea

  • unexplained anemia or iron deficiency?

Yes, I have one or more of these symptoms.

No, I do not have any symptoms.

Unexplained symptoms such as bleeding, weight loss, abdominal pain, or a change in bowel habits deserve medical attention, since they can be a sign of a serious problem with the digestive system.

If you are not having any of these symptoms, the next step is to figure out whether you may be at above-average risk for developing colon cancer. People who are at moderate or high risk for colon cancer may need a different type of screening or more frequent screening than those who have a normal or average risk.

Do you have any of the following risk factors for colon cancer

  • a past diagnosis of colon cancer or colon polyps

  • one or more family members who have been diagnosed with colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis

  • a suspected family cancer syndrome such as hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (also known as HNPCC or Lynch syndrome) or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)?

Yes, I have one or more of these risk factors.

No, I do not have any of these risk factors.

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