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The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are administered to people without current symptoms, but who have risk factors for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Guidelines

The decision to screen will likely be made on an individual basis based on your risk factors. Most guidelines suggest the following:

Average Risk

Since age is a risk factor, screening is recommended starting at age 50. Screening may be started earlier in African Americans and Native Americans because of higher risk. Screening may be done with one of the following:

High Risk

Recommendations for those with a first-degree relative with onset of colorectal cancer after age 60 include:

  • Begin screening at age 40
  • Preferred screening—colonoscopy every 10 years or more frequently, depending on the colonoscopy findings

Recommendations for those with a first-degree relative with onset of colorectal cancer before age 60 include:

  • Begin screening at age 40 or 10 years younger than age of diagnosis of the affected relative (whichever is first)
  • Preferred screening—colonoscopy every 5 years or more frequently, depending on the colonoscopy findings

Screening test options listed above can also be used for those with high risk.

References:

American Cancer Society recommendations for colorectal cancer early detection. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer/moreinformation/colonandrectumcancerearlydetection/colorectal-cancer-early-detection-acs-recommendations. Updated February 5, 2015. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Colorectal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/tumors-of-the-gi-tract/colorectal-cancer. Updated July 2014. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Colorectal cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 21, 2015. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Colorectal cancer screening. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colorectal-screening-pdq. Updated July 23, 2015. Accessed December 3, 2015.

4/8/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Yee J, Kim DH, Rosen MP, et al. Colorectal cancer screening. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria. Available at: https://acsearch.acr.org/docs/69469/Narrative. Updated 2013. Accessed December 3, 2015.



Last reviewed June 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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