Colon Cancer Screening

Although colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, it is also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers.

Colon cancer screening can be used to help find cancer early when it's easier to treat.


The most common screening test to look for problems or changes in your bowel is a colonoscopy. Using a flexible tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, your doctor can look inside your large intestine or colon for any abnormalities or to remove polyps - abnormal precancerous growths. 

Regular screening is recommended for:

  • Those age 50 and older
  • Those with a family history of polyps or colon cancer
  • African Americans age 45 and older

Colonoscopy is the best test for finding precancerous polyps and the only test that lets your doctor remove polyps during the exam. 

Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines 

Depending on your risk factors, your provider will recommend the screening that's best for you.

Average Risk

If you have never had polyps or cancer, you should begin screening at age 50.

Recommended Tests

The following tests are preferred:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Annual Fecal Immunochemical Test

Other options include:

  • FIT-fecal DNA (Cologuard®) every three years
  • Ct colonography every 5 years
  • Flexible signoidoscopy every 5-10 years

If any of the other tests other than colonoscopy are positive, colonoscopy must be performed as a follow up.

Family History

If you have a history of polyps or cancer in your family, it is recommended that you have a colonoscopy at age 40 or younger.

Recommended Tests

  • Colonoscopy is the only test recommended
  • Depending on details of your family history, your doctor may recommend colonoscopy at an earlier age.

Personal History

If you have ever had colorectal polyps or cancer, further follow up is done with colonoscopy.

Recommended Tests

  • Colonoscopy is the only test established as safe and effective for polyp follow up
  • Your doctor will recommend how often you should have a colonoscopy depending on:
    • Number and size of precancerous polyps
    • The type of precancerous polyps
    • How polyps were removed
    • If you have had colon cancer, your cancer diagnosis and treatment