When Should I Be Screened for Colon Cancer?

Submitted by Dr. Brian Buchberg on December 12, 2018

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Make your bottom your top priority

While nobody likes to talk about their backside, I’ve got good news in honor of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. When found and treated early, colon cancer is often curable. And a colonoscopy, the main colon cancer screening method, is one of the few cancer screening tests that can prevent cancer.

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For the general population, my gastroenterology colleagues and I agree with the American Cancer Society guidelines for colonoscopy screenings. If you are at no increased risk of colorectal cancer, screening colonoscopies should begin at age 45*. If you have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps, colonoscopies should begin 10 years before any first-degree relative was diagnosed, or at age 40, whichever is earlier.

The danger of polyps

If left to grow, polyps can become cancerous over time. During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist can see inside the colon and large intestine by using a flexible camera called a colonoscope, which can both detect and remove potentially cancerous polyps. It allows doctors to look inside the large intestine after the proper overnight preparation and anesthesia. Most patients report that the test is quick and painless.

Preventing colon cancer

There’s no escaping the fact that preventive measures are necessary for everyone, no matter your gender or race. The best way to prevent colon cancer is to visit a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy at the recommended time for your unique risk factors. If you're over the age of 45, you can request more information here.

If you take my advice, chances are you’ll never have to make an appointment with me for more invasive treatment.

Dr. Buchberg is a board-certified surgeon who specializes in colon and rectal surgery. He practices at Chesapeake Surgical Specialists.

*This article was updated February 2019 to represent the American Cancer Society's revised colon screening guidelines that lower the recommended screening age from 50 to 45.