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Contact Information Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention
Division of Cancer
Prevention and Control
4770 Buford Hwy, NE
MS K-64
Atlanta, GA 30341-3717

Call: 1 (800) CDC-INFO
TTY: 1 (888) 232-6348
FAX: (770) 488-4760


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Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Screening Tests
  • Questions to Ask Your Doctor
  • Insurance and Medicare
  • Screening Guidelines
  • Know Before You Go

    Screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for men and women beginning at age 50. National guidelines for colorectal cancer screening include the following tests—

    • Colonoscopy (once every 10 years).
    • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test, also known as a stool test (once a year).
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years).

    The benefits and risks of these screening methods vary. Discuss with your doctor which test is best for you, and check with your insurance provider to find out which tests are covered by your insurance plan, and how much you will have to pay.

    Ask Your Doctor

    Do I need to get a screening test for colorectal cancer?

    • What screening test(s) do you recommend for me?
    • How do I prepare? Do I need to change my diet or my usual medication schedule?
    • What's involved in the test? Will it be uncomfortable or painful? Is there any risk involved? When and from whom will I get results?

    If you're having a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, you will want to know—

    • Who will do the exam?
    • Will I need someone with me?

    If You're at Increased Risk
    Some people are at increased risk because they have inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome). These people may need to start screening earlier than age 50. If you believe you are at increased risk, ask your doctor if you should begin screening earlier than age 50.

    If You're Having Symptoms
    Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

    • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
    • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
    • Losing weight and you don't know why.

    These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know what is causing them is to speak with your doctor about them.

    Page last reviewed: March 31, 2009
    Page last updated: March 31, 2009
    Content source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
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