Most health problems respond best to treatment when they are diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
This is especially true of colorectal cancer.
Treatment is most effective before the disease spreads.
People can take an active role in the early detection of colorectal cancer by following these guidelines:
- During regular checkups, have a digital rectal exam. For this exam, the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels for abnormal areas.
- Beginning at age 40, have an annual fecal occult blood test. This test is a check for hidden (occult) blood in the stool. The test is done because colorectal cancer may cause bleeding that cannot be seen. However, other conditions also may cause bleeding, so having blood in the stool does not necessarily mean a person has cancer.
- Beginning at age 50, have a sigmoidoscopy/colonoscopy every 3 to 5 years. (Speak with your doctor.) This is an exam of the rectum and lower colon using a sigmoidoscope. The doctor looks through a thin, lighted tube to check for polyps, tumors or other abnormalities.
- People who may be at a greater than average risk for colon cancer should discuss a schedule for these or other tests with their doctor.