Colon Cancer Screening

If your doctor has recommended colon cancer screening, you might be able to choose from various colon cancer screening tests. If you're reluctant to make a decision, remember that any discomfort or embarrassment from colon cancer screening is temporary — and detecting problems early could save your life. Screening tests are used only if you don't have bowel symptoms. If you have signs and symptoms — such as abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits, bleeding, constipation or diarrhea — then you'll need other tests to address these problems. If you don't have bowel symptoms, consider the following questions to help choose the colon cancer screening test that's best for you.

What preparation is involved?

Preparing for colon cancer screening can be uncomfortable or inconvenient, but it's necessary for the test to be effective. As part of your decision, consider your willingness or ability to follow the preparation instructions for specific colon cancer screening tests. This may — to varying degrees — include avoiding solid food the day before the exam, adjusting your medications, and using laxatives or enemas to empty your colon.

How convenient is the test?

In addition to test preparation, consider:

  • How long the test will take
  • How often you need to repeat the test
  • Whether you'll need sedation
  • How much follow-up care you'll need
  • The possible need for follow-up testing to investigate a false-positive finding or to remove tissue