March 8, 2021

Do I really need a colorectal cancer screening?

The answer is yes if you’re 50 or older, and earlier screening may be recommended based on your risk factors.

Keeping up with regular screenings is one of the best ways to stop colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. When caught early, colorectal cancer can be cured in 9 out of 10 cases. Screening can also prevent cancer by helping doctors find and remove polyps — small clumps of cells on the lining of the colon — before they become cancerous.

Kaiser Permanente is proud of its consistently high colorectal cancer screening rates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many people have delayed life-saving preventive screenings.

The good news is that one type of screening for colorectal cancer — called a fecal immunochemical test, or FIT — can be done in the comfort and privacy of your home. The noninvasive test checks for hidden blood in your stool, which could be a sign of colorectal cancer or of benign colorectal polyps. If your FIT test is positive, your doctor will perform a colonoscopy to examine the inner lining of your colon and rectum.

Colorectal cancer screening is generally recommended for people with average risk when they are between the ages of 50 and 75. Earlier screening may be recommended for people with a family history of colorectal cancer, people with certain health conditions or hereditary syndromes, or for African Americans, who are more likely to get colorectal cancer before the age of 50.

Talk with your doctor about your risk, when to start and stop screening, and what type of screening is best for you.

[Kaiser Permanente logo]  A national leader in colorectal cancer screening rates    Medicare health plans  Kaiser Permanente: 87%  Nationwide: 74%  Commercial health plans  Kaiser Permanente: 76%  Nationwide: 64%  Source: 2020 Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®)