Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

Cancer screenings are medical tests that are performed when a person has no symptoms. Starting at age 50, men and women should follow one of the five examination schedules below. All positive tests (FOBT, FIT, flexible sigmoidoscopy, barium enema) should be followed up with a colonoscopy.

  • Colonoscopy: Every 10 years
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT): Every year. Both tests are available in take-home versions.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Every five years.
  • Annual FOBT or FIT and flexible sigmoidoscopy: Every five years. Having both tests is recommended over either test alone.
  • Double-contrast barium enema: Every five years.

People at moderate or high risk for colon cancer (e.g., strong family history) should talk with their doctor about the need for a different testing schedule.

These screening guidelines are provided as a guide. If results of these exams suggest cancer, more extensive diagnostic tests of the colon or rectum should be conducted. More frequent exams are needed if polyps (precancerous lesions) are found. In individuals at increased risk with a family history of colon cancer or polyps or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, screening may need to begin earlier.

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