Colon cancer tests

Somali: Kaansarta mindhicirka iyo malawadka: Waxa la rabo inaad ogaatid

Spanish: Cáncer colorectal: Lineamientos de pruebas/detección temprana

Screening / early detection guidelines

Colorectal cancers occur most often in people who are over the age of 50, and the risk increases as people get older. This is why we recommend colon cancer screening for everyone, age 50 and older.

For an average risk patient, the following screening tests can be used. You and your health care provider can decide which colon cancer test schedule is best for you:

  • Prevention testing:
    • a colonoscopy every 10 years
    • if unable to complete colonoscopy:
    • a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
    • CT colography
    • barium enema

If you have risks and/or a family history of colon cancer, you may need screening before age 50. Talk about this with your health care provider.

Colon polyp: Is it cancer?

A colon cancer test like a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy will look for a suspicious colon polyp or tissue growth.

Most colon polyps are noncancerous. But they may become cancerous over time.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know, can-ahc-14310 (3/05); Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer and the Patient at Low or Average Risk, can-ahc-14311 (3/06); American Cancer Society, All About Colon and Rectum Cancer
First Published: 10/19/2009
Last Reviewed: 10/19/2009

Patient story

Saved by colon cancer screening: Ruth's story

Ruth Edstrom speaks with a woman about colon cancer screening

In November 1999, Ruth Edstrom got the news that changed her life. She had stage 4 colon cancer, and it had spread to her liver.

Today, she says, "The most important thing is for people to go get screened."