Colon cancer screening can detect polyps and early cancers in the intestines. This type of screening can find problems that can be treated before cancer develops or spreads. Regular screenings may reduce the risk of death and pain caused by colorectal cancer.
There are several ways to screen for colon cancer.
This method checks your bowel movements for blood.
Polyps in the colon and smaller cancers often cause small amounts of bleeding that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
The most common test used is the fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Newer ones are called the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and stool DNA test (sDNA).
This test uses a flexible small scope to look at the lower part of your colon. Because it only looks at the last one-third of the large intestine (colon), it may miss some cancers.
A stool test and sigmoidoscopy should be used together.
Screening for these groups of people is more likely to be done using colonoscopy.
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Levin B, Lieberman DA, McFarland B, Smith RA, Brooks D, Andrews KS, et al. Screening and surveillance for the early detection of colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps, 2008: a joint guideline from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology. CA Cancer J Clin. 2008;58:130-160.
George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.