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.
Polyps in the colon and smaller cancers can cause small amounts of bleeding that cannot be seen with the naked eye. But the blood can often be found in the stool.
This method checks your stool for blood.
The most common test used is the fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Two other tests are called the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and stool DNA test (sDNA).
This test uses a flexible small scope to view the lower part of your colon. Because the test only looks at the last one-third of the large intestine (colon), it may miss some cancers that are higher in the large intestine.
Sigmoidoscopy and a stool test should be used together.
Screening for these groups is more likely to be done using colonoscopy.
Itzkowitz SH, Potack J. Colonic polyps and polyposis syndromes. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds.Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management.9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 122.
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.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines): Colorectal cancer screening. Version 2.2013. Available at: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/colorectal_screening.pdf. Accessed October 24, 2013.
Rex DK, Johnson DA, Anderson JC, Schoenfeld PS, Burke CA, Inadomi JM; American College of Gastroenterology. American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for colorectal cancer screening 2009 [corrected]. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104:739-750.
George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.