Colon cancer screening tests save lives.

Screening tests help your doctor find polyps or cancer before you even have symptoms. This early detection may prevent polyps from becoming cancer and could jumpstart treatment earlier, when it is most effective.

Though it is usually recommended to start getting screened at age 50, you may need to be screened earlier depending on your family’s health history and risk factors. Check out who should be screened and when.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Methods Free Downloads

Download our free Screening Methods Guide.

MethodWhat & HowFrequencyProsCons
ColonoscopySimple and safe procedure in which your doctor uses a long tube with a light and camera to detect polypsEvery 5-10 years depending on whether polyps are foundViews the entire colon. Polyps can be removed if foundDietary restrictions 1-3 days prior to procedure and prep to clean out the colon is needed
Fecal Immunochemical Test
(FIT or iFOBT)
Tests for blood. Swab bowel movement and place on cardAnnuallyNo prep. Done at home. Fairly InexpensiveAccuracy. Need a colonoscopy if blood is detected. Requires 1-2 separate samples
Guaiac Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)Tests for blood. Swab bowel movement and place on cardAnnuallyNo prep. Done at home. InexpensiveAccuracy, Dietary restrictions, Need a colonoscopy if blood is detected. Requires 3 separate samples
Flexible SigmoidoscopyDetects polyps. Done at a doctors’ officeEvery 5 years, may be combined with annual stool testNo sedation required. Can biopsy if small polyp detectedOnly views part of the colon. Need a colonoscopy if larger polyps or other issues are detected
Virtual ColonoscopyUses x-rays and computers to take 2- or 3-D images of your colon and rectumEvery 5 yearsQuicker and less invasive than colonoscopy. No sedation is neededExpensive and not covered by all insurance carriers, Dietary restrictions 1-3 days before the procedure, full bowel prep is required, If a polyp is found, will need a colonoscopy
Stool DNATests for abnormal DNA. Swab bowel movement and to labEvery 3 yearsNo prep, no dietary restrictions. Done at home. Greater accuracy than FITMore expensive than FIT, Need a colonoscopy if results indicate cancerous or precancerous cells
Double-Contrast Barium EnemaAir and barium are pumped into your rectum. The solution will show polyps or tumors on X-rays.Every 5-10 yearsDone without sedation. Less expensive than colonoscopyLaxative preparation is required. Polyps cannot be removed during the procedure. If polyps are found, a colonoscopy will be needed

Click on the name of each method above to learn more.