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Schedule Your Screening for Colorectal Cancer

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people age 50 and older.

The good news? If everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to encourage people to get screened.

To increase awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screening, CHCRR is proudly participating in Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone can take these healthy steps to help prevent colorectal cancer.

Screening Saves Lives

If you’re 50 or older, getting a colorectal cancer screening test could save your life. Here’s How:

  • Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that shouldn’t be there. Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer.
  • Screening tests can find polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
  • Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when the chance of being cured is good.

Colorectal Cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the US.

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the US.

If everyone aged 50 years or older had regular screening tests, at least 60% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.

Do you know someone over 50

who hasn't been screened for colorectal cancer yet?

Are you worried about a family member or friend who is age 50 to 75 and has put off getting tested for colorectal cancer? Here are some tips to help you start the conversation.

Start by saying, “I care about you.”

  • “I want you to live a long and healthy life.”
  • “I want you to get tested so you don’t have to worry about colorectal cancer.”

Explain the reasons for getting tested.

  • “Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest and most common cancers. People over age 50 have the highest risk.”
  • “If the doctor finds a growth in your colon, it can be removed before it becomes dangerous.”

Offer support.

  • “What part of the test are you most worried about?”
  • “How can I make it easier for you to get tested?”
  • “I know the test might be uncomfortable, but it won’t last long.”

Here are some ways to support a friend or loved one:

  • Look online for descriptions of different colorectal cancer tests.
  • Help make the appointment for the test.
  • If you are age 50 to 75, set the example – get tested for colorectal cancer and share your experience.
  • Offer to drive your loved one to the appointment.

Talk to Your Doctor About Screening

if you are over age 50

Print these questions to ask your doctor about colorectal cancer screening. Take them to your next checkup.

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, most insurance plans must cover screening for colorectal cancer. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get screened at no cost to you.

To learn more about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Get support.

If you are nervous about getting a colorectal cancer test, get support.

  • Ask a family member or friend to go with you.
  • Talk with people you know who have been screened to learn what to expect.

Get the Facts About Colorectal Cancer & Screening

Colorectal Cancer Can Start With No Symptoms

Precancerous polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. This means that someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important.

What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

People who have polyps or colorectal cancer don’t always have symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. If there are symptoms, they may include:

  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Stomach aches, pains, or cramps that don’t go away.
  • Losing weight and you don’t know why. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. However, the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.

Am I at High Risk?

Your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.
  • You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer. Speak with your doctor about having earlier or more frequent tests if you think you’re at high risk for colorectal cancer.

Types of Screening Tests

Several different screening tests can be used to find polyps or colorectal cancer. Each can be used alone, or sometimes in combination with each other.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends colorectal cancer screening for men and women aged 50–75 using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy. Talk to your doctor about which test or tests are right for you. The decision to be screened after age 75 should be made on an individual basis. If you are older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.

High-Sensitivity FOBT (Stool Test)

There are two types of FOBT: One uses the chemical guaiac to detect blood. The other—a fecal immunochemical test (FIT)—uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool. You receive a test kit from your health care provider. At home, you use a stick or brush to obtain a small amount of stool. You return the test to the doctor or a lab, where stool samples are checked for blood.

How Often: Once a year

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

For this test, the doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon.

How Often: Every five years. When done in combination with a High-Sensitivity FOBT, the FOBT should be done every three years.


This is similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted 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.

How Often: Every 10 years.

Other Screening Tests in Use or Being Studied

Although these tests are not recommended by the USPSTF, they are used in some settings and other groups may recommend them. Many insurance plans don’t cover these tests and if anything unusual is found during the test, you likely will need a follow-up colonoscopy.

Double Contrast Barium Enema: You receive an enema with a liquid called barium, followed by an air enema. This creates an outline around your colon, allowing the doctor to see the outline of your colon on an X-ray.

Virtual Colonoscopy: Uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon. The images are displayed on the computer screen.

Stool DNA Test: You collect an entire bowel movement and send it to a lab to be checked for cancer cells.

Lower Your Risk: Stay Healthy

Quit smoking.

People who smoke are more likely to get colorectal cancer. If you smoke, make a plan to quit today.

Watch your weight.

Being overweight increases your chance of developing colon cancer. Find out how to control your weight.

Get active.

Regular exercise may help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Take these steps to get moving today.

Drink alcohol only in moderation.

Drinking too much alcohol may increase your risk of colorectal cancer. If you choose to drink, have only a moderate (limited) amount. This means:

  • No more than 1 drink a day for women
  • No more than 2 drinks a day for men

Eat healthy.

Eating healthy foods that are low in certain kinds of fat – and high in calcium and fiber – may help prevent colorectal cancer.

Talk with your doctor about taking aspirin every day.

Taking aspirin every day can lower your risk of colorectal cancer, heart attack, and stroke. But it’s not right for everyone. If you are age 50 to 59, ask your doctor if daily aspirin is right for you.

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