By age 40 you should have a talk with your doctor to assess your risk level and to discuss which colon cancer screening option is right for you based on your family medical history. Men and women of average risk should start screenings by age 50, and many people may need to be screened sooner.
Call your doctor today to discuss colon cancer screening. If you do not have a doctor, contact your local health department. Several types of screening tests can be used to find polyps and colon cancer. Scroll down to review these types of tests so you can be informed when you have this discussion with your doctor.
Stool based screening tests
There are two types of stool based screening tests that check for blood in your stool. They are called FOBT (sensitive guaiac test or sensitive fecal occult blood test) and FIT (fecal immunochemical test). These tests should be done once a year. A positive test requires further testing. A new test called Cologuard is also available as of 2014.
These tests include the colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and virtual colonoscopy. These tests allow doctors to check for polyps and cancer. The colonoscopy is the only test that allows the doctor to check inside the entire colon and remove polyps.
Still not sure?
“I can’t afford it.”
Colon cancer screening tests may be available to you at little or no cost. Most insurance plans, Medicare, and Medicaid help pay for colon cancer screening tests. Check with your plan to find out which tests are covered. If you do not have insurance, low cost or free screening services may be available; check with your doctor or local health department.
“My doctor didn’t tell me to get tested.”
Take charge of your health and bring up the topic of colon cancer testing during your next appointment, or give your doctor a call. If you are age 50 or older, or if you are at high risk for colon cancer, you need to be tested.
“I’m scared about the test.”
Talk with your doctor about any concerns, the screening options available, and the pros and cons of each test.
“No one in my family has had colon cancer.”
You do not have to have a family history to get colon cancer. 75% of people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history.
“I don’t have any symptoms.”
Just because you do not have symptoms does not mean you do not need to be screened. Colon cancer is preventable and treatable.