Who Should Have a Colonoscopy and How Often?

For years, 50 was the magic age for when you should start screening for colorectal cancer. Updated recommendations were needed because the health habits of Americans changed and health trends evolved. The American Cancer Society took care of that, releasing updated guidelines for colorectal screening based on information gathered from years of colorectal cancer data that suggest earlier screening can save lives. While not every organization has updated its guidelines, it’s still important to take a look when a major one does. 

Here’s what you should know about how soon and how often to get your colorectal cancer screening.

Colorectal cancer overview

Cancer can develop anywhere in the body. Colorectal cancer grows in the colon or rectum. Here are some fast facts to get you up to speed. 

Colorectal cancer:

Colonoscopy screening

A colonoscopy is the most effective screening tool and can find colorectal cancer at its earlier stages. In fact, a colonoscopy can detect abnormal changes that have a higher likelihood of developing into colon cancer in the future, effectively preventing colon cancer before it starts.

The test involves your provider using a flexible tube with a camera attached to closely examine your large intestine and rectum.

Key updated colorectal screening recommendations

Research reviewed by the American Cancer Society indicates that new rates of colorectal cancer are increasing in younger adults. That’s why people at average risk should begin screening between the ages of 45 and 50. However, not all insurance companies cover screening at 45, so make sure and check on that if you’re at average risk. 

Other key recommendations based on age include:

Who should screen for colorectal cancer before age 45?

People at a higher risk for colon cancer benefit from earlier screening. You should be screened for colon cancer before age 45 if you have:

If you have a higher risk for colon cancer, discuss it with one of the gastroenterologists here at Illinois Gastroenterology Group. Your provider can suggest individualized screening recommendations based on your situation.

How often should you get a colonoscopy?

Colorectal cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer. If your colonoscopy detects no polyps or abnormal growths and you aren’t otherwise at an increased risk for developing colon cancer, it’s recommended that you get a colonoscopy every 10 years.

If your colonoscopy finds low-risk colon polyps, it’s recommended that you be screened every five years.

People who have high-risk polyps or abnormal growths will need screenings more often than every five years. When this is the case, your provider discusses how often you should screen to best lower your risk of developing colon cancer.

Millions of Americans fail to get the recommended screenings for colon cancer. It’s important to know that colorectal cancer typically causes no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. This makes it vital to follow recommended colorectal screening guidelines even if you’re in excellent health. The chances of successful treatment and cure is much higher when colorectal cancer is detected before it has a chance to spread to nearby organs and tissues.

Don’t put off getting a colonoscopy. One of our gastroenterologists would be happy to talk with you about getting scheduled for this important screening. 

We have offices in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs including Gurnee, Evanston, Skokie, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, and Highland Park. Call your nearest office to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists or you can request an appointment here on our website. 

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