March Is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

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Colorectal Cancer Twitter Chat: CDC's experts answer your questions about colorectal (colon) cancer on Tuesday, March 26 at 1 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time. Join us at hashtag number sign C.D.C. Cancer Chat

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened as recommended.

If you're 50 years old or older, getting screened for colorectal cancer could save your life. Here's how—

  • Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented.
  • Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment often leads to a cure.

When Should You Begin to Get Screened?

You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then keep getting screened regularly until age 75. Ask your doctor if you should be screened if you’re older than 75.

Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. Having any of these things may increase your risk—

  • Inflammatory bowel disease.
  • A personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • Genetic syndromes, like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome).

If you think you may be at high risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about when and how often to get tested.

What Are the Screening Tests for Colorectal Cancer?

Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor about which test or tests are best for you. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends these tests to screen for colorectal cancer—

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year.
  • Sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, with high-sensitivity FOBT every 3 years.
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years.

Have More Questions About Colorectal Cancer?

CDC's experts will answer your questions in a Twitter chat on Tuesday, March 26 at 1pm EDT. Use the hashtag #CDCCancerChat to follow the chat and ask questions.

Meryl Streep Promotes Screening in New Videos

Photo of Meryl Streep

CDC's Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign informs men and women aged 50 years old or older about the importance of regular screening for colorectal cancer. This year, Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep joins the Screen for Life campaign, appearing in new TV and radio public service announcements. She talks about how much there is in life that we can't control, but says "here's something we can: colorectal cancer." She describes her own screening experience, and urges men and women to get screened beginning at age 50.

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Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention