Screening and Surveillance for Colorectal Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, if all adults that are age 50 and over were screened for colon cancer, the deaths from this disease would be reduced by half – that’s approximately 25,000 people each year. For colon cancer, early detection is one of the most important factors to survival, which makes colon cancer screenings so critical.

The age and frequency at which a patient should get colon cancer screenings depends on their risk significance.

Average Risk
Those who are considered an average risk for developing colon cancer should begin being screened for colon cancer at age 50. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years, but there are take home tests requiring a fecal sample that should be done every year. If any positive results are found from these tests, a colonoscopy should then be scheduled. 

Increased or High Risk
Those who are considered to have increased or high risk for developing colon cancer should be screened before age 50 and should be screened more frequently. Increased risk factors include a personal history of polyps or colon cancer, a strong family history of colon cancer, or a personal history of a bowel condition like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel disease. It’s important that patients at higher risk consult their physician regarding risk for colon cancer and discuss how often screening should be scheduled.

If a patient has had colon cancer, then surveillance after resection is likely required. Those who have had polyps removed may also required a surveillance schedule for screenings. The surgeon will schedule a surveillance schedule for regular screenings to determine whether the resection surgery was successful and the cancer has not returned.