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Put it this way: If you're on AARP's mailing list, ask your doctor when you should have a colonoscopy. Standard guidelines recommend having a colonoscopy to screen for colon and rectal cancer when you turn 50. If everything looks hunky dory, you probably won't need a return engagement for another 10 years. If your doctor detects abnormal growths called polyps, which can become cancer, you'll need more frequent colonoscopies.
Having this procedure on schedule can be a lifesaver. One study found that people who underwent routine colonoscopies cut their risk for dying of colon cancer by more than 50%.
You should be screened for colon cancer after age 50, says Stephanie Wishnev, MD, a colorectal surgeon at MountainView Hospital. In this video, she says that people with family history of cancer should be tested at age 40.
The recommended age for the general population to begin getting screened for colon cancer is 50. However, if a brother, sister or parent developed colon cancer prior to the age of 55, you should get screened at least 10 years before the age when that relative was first diagnosed with colon cancer. If you have any concerns about when you should be tested, based on your personal and family medical history, ask your primary care doctor for advice. In addition, if you have any symptoms that could indicate you have colorectal cancer, you should see your doctor so appropriate tests can be ordered promptly.
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then keep getting screened regularly. Some people have a higher risk because they have inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer or genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome). If you are 50 years old or older, or think you may have a higher risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer for all people until they turn 75 years old, and for some people when they are older than 75. If you are in this age group, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
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If you don’t have a family history or worrisome symptoms of colon caner, you should begin testing at age 50; however, if you have a family history of the disease or worrisome symptoms like bleeding from the rectum or difficulty with bowel movements, you should be screened earlier.
Some young people are at risk for colon cancer. A lot depends on certain genetic syndromes or other colon conditions like inflammatory bowel disease that can increase risk. If you have these conditions, please check with your doctor to see if you should be tested.
Doctors typically recommend you get your first colonoscopy at age 50. In this video, Sharmila Anandasabapathy, MD, a gastroenterologist, discusses when you should should be screened again if you're results are normal.
In patients with no gastrointestinal problems and no risk factors for colon cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends a first screening colonoscopy at age 50.
However, if you have bowel symptoms such as blood in your stool or a significant change in your bowel movements or their frequency, you should see a doctor right away. If you have any risk factors for colon cancer such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or a family history of colon cancer, your doctor may want to order the colonoscopy long before you turn 50. If a member of your immediate family, such as a sibling or a parent has had colon cancer, you should begin screening at least 10 years before the age your relative was when diagnosed. The frequency of colonoscopy is determined based on your risk factors and whether or not you have polyps on your colonoscopy. In the average-risk patient with a normal colonoscopy, the test is repeated every 5-10 years.
In general, screening for colorectal cancer with colonoscopy begins at 50 years old. However, screening begins earlier if there are symptoms of colorectal cancer present or if there is a family history of colorectal cancers or polyps. Screening involves a painless procedure called a colonoscopy to detect precancerous polyps before they become harmful.
Screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 50 for those with no identified risk factor other than age. People with a family history or other risk factors should talk to their doctor about starting screening when they are younger.
Colon cancer is very curable when detected early. Talk with your doctor about which test is right for you. Generally, most men should have their first colon cancer screening at age 50. If there is a family history of colon cancer, or other risk factors, screenings may be recommended sooner or more frequently.
The following are the recommended guidelines for colorectal cancer screening:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Beginning at age 50, every five years
- Colonoscopy: Beginning at age 50, every 10 years
- Double contrast barium enema: Beginning at age 50, every five years
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy): Beginning at age 50, every five years
- Fecal occult blood test: Beginning at age 50, every year
- Fecal immunochemical test: Beginning at age 50, every year
- Stool DNA test: Beginning at age 50, interval uncertain
General guidelines for people without a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps are to start at age 50. People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, African-American descent, with family history, or with a personal history should start earlier. Generally, high-risk groups start at age 40. The exception is African-Americans, who should start at 45. If, however, a close relative was diagnosed very young (below 50), it would not make sense to wait until you were 40. In these instances, the rule of thumb is to get screened ten years younger than the age of your family member with colon cancer at diagnosis.
Screening for colorectal cancer should be done as follows:
- If you are 50, undergo an endoscopic procedure, preferably a screening colonoscopy.
- If you have personal risk factors such as colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps detected in a first-degree relative before age 60, begin screening sooner (typically at age 40).
- Continue getting a colonoscopy every 10 years; or a flexible sigmoidoscopy, double-contrast barium enema or virtual colonoscopy every five years; and a fecal occult blood test every year.
- If you have had a polyp detected and removed, get screening colonoscopy more frequently as recommended by your doctor.
- If you don't have insurance, or your insurance won't cover the costs, locate a free or low-cost screening program in your area via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC's) Colorectal Cancer Control Program.
This content originally appeared on doctoroz.com
Despite major advances in screening and early detection, colon cancer still accounts for about 9% of all cancer deaths. Rare before the age of 40, colon cancer incidence begins to increase each decade thereafter.
Screening for colon cancer should begin at age 50 for those at average risk and continue for as long as a person is healthy enough to benefit. It may not be recommended after age 75. Despite its proven effectiveness, colon cancer screening remains underutilized in older adults.
Higher-risk individuals -- those with a family history of colon cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease -- should consider starting screening earlier and choose colonoscopy over the other methods because of its greater likelihood of detecting disease at an early stage.
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.