Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.
The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened according to national guidelines.
If you're 50 years old or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. Here's how—
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don't always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. Symptoms for colorectal cancer may include—
These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you're having any of these symptoms, the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then keep getting screened regularly. Some people have a higher risk because they have inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome). If you are 50 years old or older, or think you may have a higher risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer for all people until they turn 75 years old, and for some people when they are older than 75. If you are in this age group, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer. Some are used alone; others are used in combination with each other. Talk with your doctor about which test or tests are best for you. The USPSTF recommends these tests—
Many insurance plans and Medicare help pay for colorectal cancer screening. Check with your plan to find out which tests are covered for you. To find out about Medicare coverage, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
CDC's Colorectal Cancer Control Program provides access to colorectal cancer screening to low-income men and women who are 50–64 years old and are underinsured or uninsured in 25 states and four tribes.
CDC's Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign informs men and women who are 50 years old or older about the importance of having regular colorectal cancer screening tests.
In new Screen for Life television public service announcements (PSAs), diverse men and women respond to the question, "Why should I get screened for colorectal cancer?" They voice common misconceptions about who should be screened, and an off-screen expert explains the facts and why screening is important. The clear take-away message is that screening for colorectal cancer saves lives.
Similarly, new English and Spanish print PSAs and posters also reveal common misconceptions about screening, while setting the record straight on who should be screened and how colorectal cancer can be prevented.
The "No Excuses" PSAs and print materials are the latest additions to a rich suite of Screen for Life resources for patients and health professionals. Print materials, including fact sheets, brochures, and posters, can be viewed, printed, and ordered online. Television and radio public service announcements can be viewed and heard online.