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Colon Cancer

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives.  If everyone aged 50 years old or older were screened regularly, as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.

Get the Facts

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon or rectum—is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.  Colorectal cancer also is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.


The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with advancing age, more than 90% of cases occur in people aged 50 or older.


More than 140,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year and over 50,000 die each year from the disease.  It has been estimated that increased awareness and screening would save at least 30,000 lives each year.

You should begin screening earlier and/or more often if you have any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors:

  • A strong family history of colorectal cancer polyps
  • A known family history of hereditary colon cancer
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease

Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are currently highest in African-American men and women.

Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. Currently there is a 93% survival rate of colon cancers diagnosed in the earliest stage.

Reducing Your Risk

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives.  However, many people who are at risk for the disease are not being screened.  It is estimated that as many as 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were screened routinely.  In almost all cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Polyps start out as small wart-like bumps the size of an un-ground peppercorn. 

Screening Options

The “Gold Standard” for colorectal cancer screening is a colonoscopy.  A colonoscopy is a procedure that enables your physician to examine the lining of the colon for abnormalities by inserting a flexible tube that is about the thickness of your finger into the anus and advancing it slowly into the rectum and colon.  During this procedure your physician will remove any polyps found and biopsy any suspicious areas found in your colon lining.


Most insurance companies pay for a screening colonoscopy, however; if your insurance does not pay for a screening colon and you do not have an acceptable reason (to the insurance company) a for colonoscopy (such as rectal bleeding, diarrhea, a change in bowel habits) then the next best choice is to either pay out of pocket or undergo a barium enema/flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years.

When and How Often Should You be Screened?

You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50; then continue getting screened at regular intervals: every 10 years if your first colonoscopy was normal and every 3-5 years if polyps were found during your first colonoscopy.  However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often than other people if you or your family have other risk factors.  Speak with your doctor about getting screened.

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