Colorectal Cancer Screening

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It begins as an abnormal growth (polyp) in the large intestine, colon, or rectum. Often, there are no symptoms, which is why screening tests are important.

What is colorectal cancer screening?

A colorectal cancer screening may be one of three different tests: colonoscopy, fecal occult blood test, and flexible sigmoidoscopy. The most effective of these is colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the inside of your colon and rectum with a long, lighted tube. This test carries the added benefit of allowing your doctor to remove any polyps found during the test. Since polyps can become cancerous, removing them during colonoscopy can help prevent colorectal cancer.

How is colorectal cancer screening part of high quality health care?

Having a colorectal screening test should be part of the quality health care an adult gets from his or her primary care provider. Men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 should have a colorectal cancer screening test once every 10 years, though your family history or other risk factors might mean that you should get screened more often. Click here to learn more about talking with your doctor about when you need a colonoscopy and when you do not.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that there are more than 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer--and more than 51,000 deaths from the disease--each year. The earlier this cancer is found the more successful treatment can be.

Search and compare how well doctor's offices in Massachusetts screen for colorectal cancer based on proven standards of care.

What should I ask my doctor about colorectal cancer?

Your doctor can help determine which screening test is right for you, and how often you should be screened. Here are some questions to ask:

Learn more about when a colonoscopy is right for you from the Choosing Wisely Campaign and Consumer Reports.