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Colorectal cancer screening recommendations

When to begin screenings

If you have questions about getting screened for colorectal cancer, talk with your health care provider. Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms. But if you have any unusual bowel or abdominal symptoms, tell your health care provider. They might recommend screening.

The general recommendation is to begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. However, there are some exceptions:

  • African-Americans, who have a higher risk for colorectal cancer than other ethnic groups, should begin screening at age 45.
  • Anyone with a blood relative who had colorectal, ovarian or uterine cancer has an increased risk for colorectal cancer. Screening should begin 10 years before the age at which his or her family member was diagnosed, or at age 40, whichever comes first. If you have questions or concerns about the genetics (hereditary factors) of colorectal cancer, you may want to talk with a genetics counselor, such as Legacy Genetics Services.
  • If you have other risk factors, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, or a history of colorectal polyps, talk with your health care provider about when to get screened.

Recommended screening schedule

If you don't have significant risk factors, your health care provider may recommend one of the following:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Yearly stool blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Yearly stool blood test plus a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Double contrast barium enema every five years