Prevent Colorectal Cancer: The Best Test Is the One That Gets Done

Posted on by DCPC

Photo of Dr. Lisa C. Richardson

By Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH
Director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control

Prevent colorectal cancer—the best test is the one that gets done!

When I tell someone that he or she has cancer, the first question they ask is: “Could this have been prevented?” For colorectal cancer, the answer is a resounding YES. As an oncologist, a public health professional, and someone who admits to being over 50, I’m here to say that there are no more excuses. If you are 50 years old or older, it’s time to get screened for colorectal cancer.

Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer early, when treatment often leads to a cure.

So why don’t more people get screened?

I’ve heard all kinds of excuses, from uncomfortable prep (for some tests you have to clean out your colon beforehand), to “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t have any symptoms.” Some people don’t know that it’s recommended, but I want you to know that you have choices.

There are a number of tests to screen for colorectal cancer. The three main tests—colonoscopy, the stool blood test (which also includes the fecal immunochemical test), and flexible sigmoidoscopy—are all effective at finding problems before they become cancer, or they can find cancer early. I urge you to work with your doctor to decide which of these tests will work for you. The best test is the one that gets done.

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Posted on by DCPC

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Page last reviewed: Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Page last updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020