Colorectal Cancer Screening
What the tests are: The first screening test for colon cancer is a yearly fecal occult blood test, used to find blood in stool — a possible sign of polyps or other growths in the colon or rectum. For this test, you collect a small stool sample as directed by your doctor, and a lab analyzes it for the blood protein hemoglobin.
If blood is found, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy. For a colonoscopy, you are under anesthesia while a healthcare worker inserts a lighted tube into your rectum to view the colon and rectum. If a growth such as a polyp is found, a sample is sent to the lab for colon cancer testing. A sigmoidoscopy is a similar procedure, but without anesthesia and with less prep, usually done every three years. Risks of both procedures include colon bleeding, tearing, or perforation. Colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer should start at age 50 and be done every 10 years unless recommended more often by your doctor, up until age 75, the USPSTF recommends.
Why you should consider these tests: Colon cancer screening should be on your health to-do list because colorectal cancers rank third in cancer-related deaths for U.S. women. Colorectal cancers are expected to account for about nine percent of women’s cancer deaths in 2014, according to the American Cancer Society. Regular screening may lower your risk of dying from colorectal cancer by 60 to 70 percent, the NCI estimates.