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Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in American men and women. However, the rate of diagnosis has decreased yearly since the mid-1980s. This is mainly due to more people getting screened and reducing their risk through lifestyle changes that can include exercise and a healthy diet.

The American Cancer Society’s screening guidelines state:

  • People at average risk of colorectal cancer should start regular screening at age 45.
  • People who are in good health, and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years, should continue regular screening through age 75.
  • For people age 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on personal preference, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.
  • People over age 85 should no longer get screened.
  • Individuals who are at high risk for colorectal cancer should discuss screening options with their healthcare provider. This includes people who have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps.

Screening tests can be divided into two main groups:

Visual exam
Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard test. It can detect precancerous polyps — abnormal growths in the colon or rectum — that can be removed before they turn into cancer. A long, flexible tube (with a tiny camera at the tip) is inserted into the rectum to examine the entire colon.

Stool-based test
Cologuard is an at-home stool collection kit that detects certain DNA markers and blood in the stool. It is intended for adults age 45 and older who are at average risk for colorectal cancer. Note that Cologuard may only be appropriate for some types of patients. The test is available through a healthcare provider.

Contact your primary care provider to determine your eligibility for a screening colonoscopy.

Most insurances cover screening tests at 100 percent. Contact your plan for details.