When to Get Screened

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) sets the recommendations for colorectal cancer screening. These guidelines are formed after an extensive review of research data and followed by most organizations.

The newly released 2021 guidelines recommend that men and women of average risk for colorectal cancer begin screening starting at age 45.

When Should Screening Begin for Average-Risk Adults?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that screening begin at age 45 for average-risk adults and continue through age 75. Adults age 76 and older should ask their doctor if screening is right for them.

The USPSTF recommendations apply to those of average risk. If you are average risk, you don’t suffer from any risk factors or genetic syndromes. Plus, you should not be seeing any signs or symptoms of the disease. In this case, your procedure will be considered a “screening colonoscopy” since it’s being performed to screen you (and not diagnose what’s wrong).

When the USPSTF reviews its guidelines and solicits public comment, Fight Colorectal Cancer replies. Read our comments during the 2020 guidelines review. We support the USPSTF’s considerations and base our recommendations on the latest data. We want to see more research performed to gain understanding and ensure the guidelines accurately reflect patient needs.

Learn more about screening and download resources in our Resource Library.

Learn More About Colorectal Cancer Screening

Download our free screening mini magazine for more information about colorectal cancer screening.

Colorectal Cancer Risk

Colorectal cancer doesn’t discriminate, it impacts people of all races, genders, and ages. This is why screening guidelines are for everyone. While a majority of people are considered “average risk,” others are considered “increased risk” or “high risk.” Your risk category generally depends on your personal and family history.

Testing Schedules

Talk through the following testing schedules with your doctor and select the one that’s best for you. The best test is the one that gets done.

Tests for Both Polyps and Cancer

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Stool DNA Test (Cologuard), every 3 years*
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*,***

Tests That Primarily Find Colorectal Cancer

  • Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)*,**
  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT)*,**

To learn more about the methods used to detect and prevent colorectal cancer, check out “Colorectal Cancer Early Detection” by American Cancer Society.

* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be performed.

** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the doctor in the office is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be performed if the test is positive.

*** May not be covered by insurance.

Find a Free or Low-Cost Colonoscopy

Finding free or low-cost colon screenings can be a bit of a challenge. However, many times these options are offered locally, within your town or county.

Before you search, remember that there are several types of colon screening options, including take-home tests. Some of these options cost significantly less than a colonoscopy. If you’re looking for low-cost or free colon screenings near you, we recommend contacting the following resources.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC may have a colorectal cancer screening program in your state.

Department of Health (DOH)

Your local Department of Health may have some colorectal cancer screening programs available.

American Cancer Society (ACS)

ACS allows you to search by zip code for screening programs. Enter your zip OR city/state information and select “Cancer Screening – Colorectal” from the “Program Type” drop down menu to see if any programs are being offered near you.

National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC)

The NACHC may also help you out. Learn more about the NACHC and see their locations.