How should I get my colon checked?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Barely half of all adults follow the screening guidelines for tracking down colon polyps. Even more don't get any kind of colon cancer check. Ever.

Experts recommend that you get a colonoscopy every 10 years, starting at age 50 (earlier and more often if there's colon cancer in your family).

But if you secretly don't have any intentions of doing that, do this: Get just one colon check between 55 and 64, and it doesn't have to be a colonoscopy. There is convincing new data that having one sigmoidoscopy -- which uses a shorter scope and doesn't go up as far -- cuts your risk of colorectal cancers nearly as much as more frequent tests. It's also faster and cheaper.

Is it the best? Not quite. But it is good enough to seriously cut your odds.
There are different ways to get the colon checked depending on the nature of the concerns. If you are worried about an infection of the colon, a stool sample may be necessary to identify if there is an infection and what type. A blockage of the colon may need imaging studies such as abdominal x-rays and CT scans. Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis may require blood work as well as a colonoscopy (a flexible fiber-optic camera that looks at the lining of the colon and can biopsy the colon tissue if needed). Screening for colon cancer can include a stool study (FIT test) and/or a colonoscopy.

Continue Learning about Digestive Health

How to Keep Your Gut Healthy
How to Keep Your Gut Healthy
From taking hard hits on the football field to making marathons look easy, being a world-class athlete takes guts. Now researchers have actually gone ...
Read More
What is a polyp?
Riverside Community HospitalRiverside Community Hospital
A polyp is a growth in the colon. Polyps can form and can develop into cancer.
More Answers
When Bloating May Be Something Serious
When Bloating May Be Something SeriousWhen Bloating May Be Something SeriousWhen Bloating May Be Something SeriousWhen Bloating May Be Something Serious
Seven serious conditions that cause bloating.
Start Slideshow
Which Gut Type Are You?
Which Gut Type Are You?

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.