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Screening Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) puts out guidelines for all types of cancers so that they may be detected early and treated early. These guidelines are based on average risk men and women. However, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer you should discuss with your doctors if you should start checking early.

The ACS recommendations for colorectal cancer are for men and women 50 years and older have 1 of the 5 screening options:
1) Fecal Occult Blood Test--every year starting at 50 years old OR
2) Flexible Sigmoidoscopy at 50 years old and every 5 years
3) Yearly FOBT plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years OR
4) Colonoscopy at 50 years old and every 10 years
5) Double Contrast Barium Enema -- at 50 years and every 5 years

The ACS prefers choice #3 above.
  • The FOBT test refers to collecting and testing 6 samples from 3 consecutive stools at home.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that allows direct visual examination of the distal part of the colon and rectum with a flexible scope after a thorough cleansing of the colon and rectum.
  • Colonoscopy is a procedure that allows direct visual examination of the entire colon and rectum using a colonoscope.
  • Double contrast barium enema is a procedure that allows X-ray examination of the entire colon and rectum by instilling both barium and air to be able to visualize everything.
Although these tests are not especially easy or fun, they are essential in detecting colorectal cancer early and surviving cancer. So once you reach 50, please start these exams as outlined by the ACS.
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