Cancer Digestive Health

Colorectal cancer screenings save lives: Don’t let embarrassment stop you

No one likes to talk about colorectal cancer. But embarrassment shouldn’t prevent you from protecting your health.

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, after lung cancer.

“With early detection and treatment, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent, but, due to low screening rates, only about 40 percent of colorectal cancers are found early,” said Dr. Asha Nayak, medical oncologist at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.

In fact, it’s estimated that fewer than half of American adults older than 50 have been screened.

Colorectal screening: What to expect

Screenings detect precancerous polyps – abnormal growths in the colon or rectum – that can be removed before invasive cancer develops. The American Cancer Society suggests that individuals ages 50 and older follow one of these five screening schedules. However, your doctor may recommend a different schedule based on your personal risk factors, said Nayak.

  1. Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year.

    These simple tests look for blood in the stool.

  2. Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.

    The doctor uses a lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope to look inside the colon.

  3. Combination of annual FOBT or FIT and sigmoidoscopy every five years.
  4. Double-contrast barium enema every five years.

    This involves an enema with a barium solution and air pumped into the rectum, followed by X-rays of the rectum and colon.

  5. Colonoscopy every 10 years.

    The rectum and entire colon are examined using a long, lighted tube called a colonoscope. The patient is sedated during the procedure.

  6. Digital rectal exam.

    Your doctor should check for abnormal lumps as part of your routine physical exam.

Know your colon cancer risks. Start by taking this Healthy Colon Quiz.

About half of the colon cancer deaths in the United States could be prevented if everyone age 50 and older got screened. To make an appointment and learn about colorectal cancer screening or our digestive health services and providers, call us at 706-446-4887 or visit

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.

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