Colon cancer screening
Screening for colon cancer; Colonoscopy - screening; Sigmoidoscopy - screening; Virtual colonoscopy - screening
screening can detect polyps and early cancers in the intestines. This type of screening can find problems that can be treated before cancer develops or spreads. Regular screenings may reduce the risk of death and pain caused by colorectal cancer.
Click to download
There are several ways to screen for colon cancer.
This test uses a flexible small scope to look at the lower part of your colon. Because it only looks at the last one-third of the large intestine (colon), it may miss some cancers.
A stool test and sigmoidoscopy should be used together.
- A colonoscopy is similar to a sigmoidoscopy, but the entire colon can be viewed.
- Mild sedation is usually used during a colonoscopy.
- Sometimes, CT scans are used as an alternative to a regular colonoscopy. This is called a virtual colonoscopy
Double-contrast barium enema is a special x-ray of the large intestine that looks at the colon and rectum
Capsule endoscopy involves swallowing a small, pill-sized camera. It is being studied, but it is not recommended for standard screening at this time.
SCREENING FOR AVERAGE-RISK PEOPLE
There is not enough evidence to say which screening method is best. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.
Both men and women should have a colon cancer screening test starting at age 50. Some health care providers recommend that African Americans begin screening at age 45.
Screening options for patients with an average risk for colon cancer:
SCREENING FOR HIGHER-RISK PEOPLE
People with certain risk factors for colon cancer may need earlier (before age 50) or more frequent testing.
More common risk factors are:
- A family history of inherited colorectal cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
- A strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. This usually means first-degree relatives (parent, sibling, or child) who developed these conditions younger than age 60.
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- A personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (for example, ulcerative colitis
or Crohn's disease
Screening for these groups of people is more likely to be done using colonoscopy.
Whitlock EP, Lin JS, Liles E, Beil TL, Fu R. Screening for colorectal cancer: a targeted, updated systematic review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2008;149:638-658.
Rex DK, Johnson DA, Anderson JC, Schoenfeld PS, Burke CA, Inadomi JM; American College of Gastroenterology. American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for colorectal cancer screening 2009 [corrected]. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104:739-750.
Lieberman DA. Clinical practice. Screening for colorectal cancer. N Engl J Med. 2009;361:1179-1187.
Burt RW, Barthel JS, Dunn KB, et al. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology. Colorectal cancer screening.J Natl Compr Canc Netw.2010 Jan;8(1):8-61.
Levin B, Lieberman DA, McFarland B, Smith RA, Brooks D, Andrews KS, et al. Screening and surveillance for the early detection of colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps, 2008: a joint guideline from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology. CA Cancer J Clin. 2008;58:130-160.
George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.