Symptoms and Screening Tests
Colorectal cancer, especially in its early stage (when it is easiest to treat and the prognosis is best) often does not produce noticeable symptoms.
Keep in mind other health problems can cause similar symptoms. Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. It’s important to share any symptoms with your doctor.
We have a unique opportunity with screening. Screening tests help your doctor find polyps or cancer before you have symptoms. Finding and removing polyps may prevent colorectal cancer. Also, treatment for colorectal cancer is more likely to be effective when the disease is found early.
Regular screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 50 for people at average risk.
People who are at higher-than-average risk of colorectal cancer should talk with their doctor about whether to have screening tests before age 50, what tests to have, the benefits and risks of each test, and how often to schedule appointments.
Sometimes cancers or polyps bleed. This test can detect tiny amounts of blood in the stool. You receive a test kit from our health care provider. At home, you obtain a small amount of stool and return the test to your doctor or lab, where stool samples are checked for blood. If this test detects blood, other tests are needed to find the source of the blood.
Your doctor checks inside your rectum and the lower 1/3rd of the colon for polyps or cancer with a lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope.
This is similar to the flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the doctor uses a longer, thin flexible tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. Colonoscopy also is used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during one of the other screening tests.
You receive an enema with a liquid called barium, followed by an air enema. The barium and air create an outline around your colon, allowing the doctor to see an outline of your colon on the computer screen.
This test uses x-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon. It requires the same preparation as a colonoscopy.
There are many screening options available—each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening for men and women age 50-75 using FOBT, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Talk about your options you’re your doctor and together you can decide which test is appropriate for you.
Free or Low-Cost Screening
The CDC launched the by providing funding to 26 states and tribes across the United States. The program supports population-based screening efforts and provides colorectal cancer screening services to low-income men and women aged 50–64 years who are underinsured or uninsured for screening, when no other insurance is available. In addition to colorectal cancer screening, the program sites also provide diagnostic follow-up.
More on colorectal cancer screening on the web:
Fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute. Includes a table that outlines the advantages and disadvantages of colorectal cancer screening test.