Regular screening is important for preventing colorectal cancer. Testing can often find colon cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Ninety percent of colon cancer begins when polyps become cancerous. A polyp is a small growth that attaches itself to the inner wall of the colon. Anyone can get colon polyps, but certain people are more likely to get them than others. You may have a greater chance of getting polyps if:
- You’re 50 years of age or older
- You’ve had polyps before
- Someone in your family has had polyps
- Someone in your family has had cancer of the large intestine, also called colon cancer
- You’ve had uterine or ovarian cancer before age 50
The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is used as a screening tool to check for early colon cancer. Blood in the stool may be the only signs of early cancer.
DNA technology detects elevated levels of altered DNA and/or hemoglobin in the stool, which could be associated with cancer or pre-cancer.
Other screening tests include: colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double contrast barium enema, and CT colonography (also known as “virtual colonoscopy”).