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My Health Counts! Colorectal Cancer Screeing Saves Lives

Symptoms and Screening Tests

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, especially in its early stage (when it is easiest to treat and the prognosis is best) often does not produce noticeable symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Change in bowel habits –anything that is unusual for you.
  • Having diarrhea or constipation.
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely.
  • Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool.
  • Finding your stools are narrower than usual.
  • Frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling bloated.
  • Losing weight with no known reason.
  • Feeling very tired all the time.

Usually early colorectal cancer does not cause pain. It is important to not wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor.

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.

Screening and Tests for Colorectal Cancer

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.

Screening Saves Lives!Colorectal Cancer can be prevented. Regular screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment can be very effective.

Screening Tests include:

High-Sensitivity FOBT-(stool test)

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.

How often: Once a year

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

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.

How often: Every five years


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.

How often: Every 10 years

Double Contrast Barium Enema

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.

How often: Every five years

“Virtual Colonoscopy” CAT Scan

This test uses x-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon. It requires the same preparation as a colonoscopy.

How often: Every five years

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 Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP) 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.

Find out more about New York State's Cancer Services Program here or by calling 1-866-442-2262.

More on colorectal cancer screening on the web:

Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests

Information on colorectal cancer screening form the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Also see Colorectal Cancer Screening Basic Fact Sheet, Screening Saves Lives Brochure

Colorectal Cancer Screening: Questions and Answers

Fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute. Includes a table that outlines the advantages and disadvantages of colorectal cancer screening test.