What are the risks associated with colon cancer screening?

Joseph Stilwill, MD
Hematology & Oncology
The risks associated with colon cancer screening vary based upon the test performed. For example, the risks of colonoscopy include an adverse reaction to the sedative used for the procedure, bleeding from any biopsy performed and a tear in the colon. These complications are rare, however.
Each colon cancer screening method has benefits and potential risks. For example, fecal occult blood testing is noninvasive and inexpensive but may not pick up early or precancerous lesions and may yield false-positive test results.

Colonoscopy is very accurate in finding both cancers and pre-malignant polyps but carries some risk, especially in older adults, and the preparation is cumbersome for most people.

Continue Learning about Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer

Caused by growths that turn malignant, colon cancer develops slowly over several years.The cancer begins when precancerous growths called adenomatous polyps form in the tissues of the colon, which makes up the lower part of our di...

gestive system. Polyps can be detected through colon screenings. A colonoscopy uses a thin, lighted tube to search for polyps, cancer and abnormal areas in the colon and rectum. A colonoscopy is recommended at least every 10 years, starting at the age of 45 for African-Americans who are at greater risk for the cancer and at 50 for other races. Your risk for colon cancer increases if you have had previous cancers, a family history of colon or rectal cancers, or have ulcerative colitis. See your doctor if you have rectal bleeding, notice changes in your bowel movements or have unexplained weight loss. To prevent colon cancer, get screened as recommended by your doctor, maintain a healthy diet, exercise often and quit smoking if you currently do.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.