Prevention and Detection
You Can Prevent Colorectal Cancer Through Early Detection!
When colon cancers are detected and treated at an early stage (and have not spread beyond the colon or rectum) they are highly curable. Even better, colorectal cancer screening can detect and remove polyps at a precancerous stage -- preventing cancer from developing at all.
According to the American Cancer Society, both men and women should begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.
Four screening tests for colorectal cancer
The preferred method for screening, colonoscopy is a procedure to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. Colonoscopy evaluates the whole colon (large intestine). A colonoscope is inserted through the rectum into the colon. A colonoscope is a thin and flexible, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. Through the scope, the doctor can insert tools to remove polyps or obtain tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. Learn more on our Colonoscopy web page or Watch a video featuring U-M gastroenterologists explaining a colonoscopy procedure.
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
A fecal occult blood test and a fecal immunochemical test both check stool (solid waste) for blood that may not be visible. Small samples of stool are placed on special cards or in a small dipstick like devise and returned to the doctor or laboratory for testing. Blood in the stool may be a sign of polyps or cancer.
Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to look inside the rectum and sigmoid (lower) colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. A sigmoidoscope is inserted through the rectum into the sigmoid colon. Like the colonoscope, the sigmoidoscope is a thin and flexible, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. Sigmoidoscopy evaluates only the lower third of the colon.
A barium enema is a series of x-rays of the lower gastrointestinal tract. A chalky liquid called barium sulfate is put into the rectum. The barium coats the lower gastrointestinal tract and helps outline the colon and rectum on x-rays. This procedure is also called a lower GI series.
Additional Information about Colorectal (Colon) Cancer Screening
Still have questions?
The nurses at Cancer AnswerLine™ have answers. Call 1-800-865-1125 and you'll get a personal response from one of our registered nurses, who have years of experience in caring for people with cancer.