Colorectal cancer screening: Check out the options

With early detection, colon cancer is 90% treatable

colorectal cancer screening: men and boy eating lunch

Left untreated, colon cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. However, today’s patients have a variety of options for colorectal cancer screening, making it easy to detect and treat early.

Here are some facts about colorectal cancer, screening options and reasons to get screened.


  • Sanford Health has committed to a national pledge to improve colorectal screenings to at least 80 percent of eligible patients.
  • Colorectal cancer is 90 percent treatable when detected early. Screening can find noncancerous colon polyps or colon cancer early, when they can be easily removed or cured.
  • Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in America (among men and women when combined).
  • Patients age 50 and older should be screened every 10 years, or more often as determined by their physician. About 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50.
  • People with a personal history of polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, or a family history of colon cancer or polyps, are at higher risk. They may need to start getting tested at a younger age after consulting with their primary care provider.
  • About 75 percent of these cancers occur in people who have no known risk factors.
  • Increased risk factors include:
    • Family history of colorectal cancer. A family history of other cancers (breast, ovarian, or uterine) may also raise one’s risk for colon cancer.
    • Lifestyle-related traits including: physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use.
  • Early colon cancer often has no symptoms. Later on, symptoms may include rectal bleeding, stomach cramps, weight loss, a change in bowel habits or just feeling tired.

Colorectal cancer screening options

FIT Cologuard FIT-DNA Colonoscopy
What is it? Fecal Immunochemical Test: Stool is checked for blood (not seen by the naked eye) by taking a sample and mailing it in. Stool is checked for cancer markers and blood (not seen by the naked eye) by taking a sample and mailing it in. A lighted scope with a camera is used to look at the colon and rectum. This finds tissues and cells that are not normal.
Can it prevent cancer? No. No. Yes, by removing polyps during the procedure that could potentially develop into cancer.
Where is it done? At home. You collect a sample at home and return test kit to lab or mail it back. At home. You collect a sample at home and mail it back. At the hospital in a procedure room. Medicines will be given to you to provide comfort.
How often? Every year if normal.

*If test is not normal, you will need a colonoscopy

Every 3 years if normal.

*If test is not normal, you will need a colonoscopy

Every 10 years if normal.

*May include a biopsy or polyp removal if needed

How do I get ready? No preparation or diet restrictions required. No preparation or diet restrictions required. Requires fasting and a cleansing of the colon with a laxative.
What is the cost? Low cost – check with your insurance (often covered). Variable cost – check with your insurance (sometimes covered). Variable cost – check with your insurance (often covered if qualified).

Why should you get screened?

  • Colorectal cancer often can be prevented.
  • Colonoscopy screening can find small growths (polyps).
  • Most colorectal cancers come from precancerous polyps.
  • Before they turn into cancer, these polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy.
  • If everyone 50 and older had regular screenings, at least 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.

What about your family?

Individuals with colon cancer often ask, “When do my family members need to start getting checked for colorectal cancer?”

The answer depends upon a few things.

First, how old were you when you were diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC)? According to the American Cancer Society, if you were younger than 60, any of your first-degree relatives (parents, siblings or children) need to have a colonoscopy starting at age 40, or 10 years before the youngest family member was diagnosed, whichever is sooner. The same guideline applies if a person has two first-degree relatives with CRC.

Related: Lynch syndrome: The genetics of colon cancer

If you were diagnosed at age 60 or older, your first-degree relatives still need to start screening at age 40. This same guideline applies if you have two second-degree relatives (cousin, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew) with CRC.

The answer to this question changes if you’re diagnosed with a genetic condition increasing your risk of developing CRC. If you have a genetic condition, ask your health care provider or a genetic counselor about your family’s risks. The best protection is early detection.

Sanford USD Medical Center recently ranked in the top 50 hospitals nationally for its work in gastroenterology and GI surgery, according to U.S. News & World Report. The ranking, part of the U.S. News Best Hospitals analysis, looked at patient safety, staffing and technology when determining excellence.

In addition, the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, an organization co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently recognized Sanford Health with the 80% by 2018 National Achievement Award. Sanford Health was among six honorees that showed leadership in the effort to increase colorectal cancer screening rates.

In three years, Sanford Health increased colorectal cancer screening from 68.7 percent to 76.3 percent, with 25 primary care clinic teams making the 80 percent goal, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Posted In Cancer, Health Information, Healthy Living, Specialty Care

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