Screening Recommendations for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


Today marks the end of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, so it’s a good time to review screening recommendations and take action if you need to.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon (large intestine) or rectum. In the early stages, there may not be signs or symptoms. This can delay the diagnosis.

The good news? A report published on March 17, 2014, revealed there’s been a 30 percent drop in rates of people 50 years and older who have been diagnosed with colon cancer in the U.S.

Researchers believe this is because more people are being screened.

Death rates from colorectal cancer have decreased and even more deaths could be prevented through timely screening tests.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) campaign for colorectal screening emphasizes that early screening saves lives by:

  • preventing cancer to find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed
  • discovering cancer early so it can be treated

Risk factors

What are some of the risk factors that you should be looking for?

Colorectal cancer can affect both men and women of all races and ethnicities. Over 90 percent of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are 50-years old or above.

Some of the lifestyle-related risks include a diet that contains high fats and low fibers and aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables or working out frequently enough. Other risk factors include tobacco and alcohol use.

Family history plays a role in colorectal cancer too. A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps and bowel diseases including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Chron’s and ulcerative colitis and other genetic conditions are some of the other risks.

Who should get screened?

Here are some of the current recommendations from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

Adults 50 to 75 years old should be screened by either:

  • High-sensitivity Fecal-occult Blood Test (FOBT) once a year;
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy every 5 years (with high-sensitivity FOBT every 3 years);
  • A colonoscopy every 10 years

If you are over 75 years old, talk with your healthcare provider about if you should be screened and what type of screening would be best for you.

People with high risk for colorectal cancer might need to be screened at a younger age and/or have screening tests more often. If you think you are at a high risk, talk to your healthcare provider.

The American Cancer Society guidelines for colorectal cancer early detection vary from the recommendations above and include some other available screening tests. Click here to read more of the details.

Keep in mind that newer screening tests are being studies, and screening guidelines may change in the future.

Talk with your doctor about if, when, and how you should be screened. Screening could save your life!

About the author

Sonya Flanders, RN, ACNS-BC
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Sonya is an adult clinical nurse specialist with Baylor and moved to Texas from Canada to become a Baylor nurse. She's focused on enhancing health education of older adults along with their families and caregivers.

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Screening Recommendations for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month