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Colorectal Screening: Average Risk

The following colorectal cancer screening guidelines are for people at average risk for the disease. They also are for men and women without any colorectal cancer symptoms. If you have symptoms, you should see your health care provider as soon as possible.

Men and women at average risk of colorectal cancer include those who have:

  • No personal history of colorectal cancer or precancerous colon polyps (adenomas)
  • No family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous colon polyps (adenomas)
  • No personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (chronic ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • No personal history of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis or suspected Familial Adenomatous Polyposis without yet having undergone genetic testing
  • No personal history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer or a family history of Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer

If you fit this description, you should follow ONE of the guidelines below.

Age 50 and older, you should:

  1. Get a colonoscopy every 10 years. This test is preferred by MD Anderson to find colorectal cancer and prevent the disease by removing polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths that may become cancer.
  2. Have a virtual colonoscopy (also called Computed Tomographic Colonography) every five years. A colonoscopy will be performed if polyps are found.
  3. Take a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) every year. This take-home test finds hidden blood in the stool. This may be a sign of cancer. The FOBT may not prevent colorectal cancer. If the doctor finds blood in your stool, you will need  a colonoscopy to look for the cause of the blood in your stool.

If you choose a virtual colonoscopy, check with your insurance provider before scheduling an exam. Not all insurance providers cover the cost of this exam.

MD Anderson does not recommend colorectal cancer screening for men and women age 85 and older. Screening for adults ages 76 to 85 should be considered on an individual basis after a review of the risks and benefits with a health care provider.

These screening guidelines apply to men and women who are expected to live for at least another 10 years. The guidelines are not for men and women who have a health condition that would make it hard for a health care provider to find and treat colorectal cancer.

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For Physicians

Use our flowchart to determine cancer screening recommendations for patients. 


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center