What You Need to Know
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened according to national guidelines.
If you're 50 years old or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. Here's how—
- Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented.
- Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment often leads to a cure.
What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don't always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. Symptoms for colorectal cancer may include—
- Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement).
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
- Losing weight and you don't know why.
These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you're having any of these symptoms, the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
What Are Screening Tests for Colorectal Cancer?
Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer. Some are used alone; others are used in combination with each other. Talk with your doctor about which test or tests are best for you. The USPSTF recommends these tests—
- Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), also known as a stool test (every year).
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years) with high-sensitivity FOBT (every 3 years).
How Can I Pay for Screening Tests?
Many insurance plans and Medicare help pay for colorectal cancer screening. Check with your plan to find out which tests are covered for you. To find out about Medicare coverage, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
CDC's Colorectal Cancer Control Program provides access to colorectal cancer screening to low-income men and women who are 50–64 years old and are underinsured or uninsured in 25 states and four tribes.