FAQs about Colorectal Cancer

Shot of a mature woman hugging her husband

Colorectal cancer, sometimes called colon cancer, is the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S. and one of the few easily preventable cancers. Most patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer will survive if it is found early enough through screening.

What are screening options to detect colon cancer?

Colorectal screening is typically done by a colonoscopy, where a specialist views the walls of the colon through a camera to see if any polyps are present. A colonoscopy allows both diagnosis and treatment of polyps. There are other ways to screen for polyps and colon cancer, such as stool-based tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy and CT colonography. However, not all of these other options are widely available, and if any of these test positive for polyps, a full colonoscopy will be needed.

What are the ages to start screening for colon cancer?

Previously, the recommended age for the first colonoscopy has been at age 50 without a family history of colon cancer, although new findings suggest screening should start at age 45 for men and women. There has been a trend across the U.S. of increased diagnosis of colon cancer at younger ages, where 10 – 15% of all colon cancers are now found in people ages 45 – 50.

Are there any symptoms of possible colon cancer?

The goal of colorectal screening is to prevent colon cancer from ever developing by removing polyps before they turn into cancer. However, it is also important not to ignore warning signs that colon cancer may be developing.

Warning signs of colon cancer:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Changes in normal bowel habits
  • New and persistent abdominal pain or gas
  • Persistent thin stools
  • Unable to empty the bowels
  • Weight loss

What are risk factors for colon cancer?

Colon cancer can happen in anyone, but some known risk factors are family history, lack of physical activity, being overweight, low levels of fiber, no vegetables and fruit in the diet, and alcohol and tobacco use.

What are treatment options for colon cancer?

The number of effective options to treat colon cancer has increased in recent years, such as endoscopic, surgical, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Are colonoscopies covered by insurance?

Most insurance plans cover screenings for colon cancer. Every insurance provider, including Medicare and Medicaid, has different policies regarding coverage for screenings. It is important to check with your specific provider regarding your coverage, especially if you are under age 50.

Visit UFHealthJax.org/cancer to learn more or call 904-633-0411 to schedule a colorectal screening.