Beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, with more than 90 percent of cases occurring in persons aged 50 or older.
Men and women should begin screening earlier and more often if they have any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors: a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, a known family history of inherited colorectal cancer syndromes, a personal history of colorectal cancer, or a personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's Disease). People with risk factors for colorectal cancer or family history of colorectal cancer should talk with a gastroenterologist about screening at an earlier age and find out how often they need to be screened.
If a polyp is removed during colonoscopy, the patient will receive a report indicating the type of polyp removed. There are several different types of polyps, which are growths in the lining of the colon. One type of polyp – called an adenomatous polyp (or adenoma for short) – is a benign precancerous growth which may develop into colon cancer in the future if not removed.
Removal of an adenomatous polyp prevents that polyp from becoming cancerous, but the patient is still at risk to develop new polyps in the colon. Close follow-up is recommended. The presence of a polyp only means that the patient is at risk for colorectal cancer. It DOES NOT mean that he or she will get cancer, however, continued follow-up with a doctor is important to minimize the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the future. If there is a family history of colorectal cancer, the interval for a follow-up exam may be shortened.
Individuals at any age with certain symptoms should speak with a physician. The following symptoms might indicate colorectal cancer: Blood in your stools, narrower than normal stools, unexplained abdominal pain, unexplained change in bowel habits, unexplained anemia, and unexplained weight loss. These symptoms may be caused by other benign diseases such as hemorrhoids, inflammation in the colon or irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms for more than a few days, talk to a gastroenterologist.