Colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined in the United States. There will be an estimated 140,250 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2019 alone. Because of its seriousness and prevalence, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults age 50 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer at least once a year.
People with an increased risk of colorectal cancer should talk to their doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for them, and how often to get screened. Several screening tests can be used to find polyps or colorectal cancer. Your doctor will help you decide which is right for you based on your individual needs. Below, we discuss five colon cancer screening tests you should know about.
Your colon cancer specialist will use a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube with a camera at the end to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, your doctor can find and oftentimes remove most polyps and some cancer. Colonoscopy is also used as a follow-up screening test to one of the other screening tests.
Also called a computed tomography (CT) colonography, a virtual colonoscopy uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon, which are displayed on a computer screen for the doctor to analyze and diagnose.
Similar to a colonoscopy, for this test your colorectal specialist will use a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube to view the lower part of your colon and rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer there, but does not view the entire colon as done during a colonoscopy.
A barium enema is an x-ray of the colon and rectum. In this test you are asked to swallow a contrast dye containing Barium. The contrast dye is used to create clearer images of the inside of the body.
Stool DNA Test
For this test, you collect an entire bowel movement and send it to a lab, where it is checked for cancer cells. Cells with these mutations often get into the stool, where tests may be able to detect them. It is done once every one to three years.
Screening is the most important factor in early detection for colon cancer. If you are at a high risk of colon cancer, or fall between the ages of 50 and 75, speak with your doctor about colon cancer screening.