Colon Cancer and Polyp - Screening Guidelines
A year ago I had colonoscopy, a procedure in which a viewing tube is put into the rectum to look at the colon, the large intestine. This procedure had been recommended to me because of a number of factors. My father had cancer of the colon. Later my brother had colonoscopy and was found to have what are called adenomatous polyps, little finger-like protrusions from the inside wall of the colon, that start as benign growths but have a tendency to become cancerous.
My colonoscopy yielded 17 polyps. All were removed through the colonoscope and all proved to be benign, not cancer.
At higher risk for colon cancer
When one family member has an adenomatous polyp or cancer of the colon or rectum, their close relatives (their parents, sisters, brothers, and children) all have a higher risk of developing colon or rectal cancer than does the general population.
Cancer-screening guidelines may therefore be of special value to anyone with a family member who has had colon or rectal cancer (colorectal cancer) or an adenomatous polyp.
These guidelines are for everyone but especially for people who may be at elevated risk for developing colon or rectal cancer but have not yet been found to have it. They are to help the patients and their doctors decide which cancer examinations should be done and when.
If a person has been found to have colon or rectal cancer or polyps, they should continue to follow the doctor's recommendations for examinations.
Finding out a person's level of risk for colorectal cancer
Everyone has a level of risk for developing colorectal cancer, whether that risk be very low or very high or somewhere between those extremes. To find a person's level of risk, please read these descriptions:
The guidelines below are based upon those of the Hereditary Colorectal Cancer Program at Johns Hopkins which were developed upon the recommendations of such groups as the American Cancer Society and the American College of Gastroenterology together with the expert medical opinion of the Hereditary Colorectal Cancer Program.
Level 1 risk -- screening guidelines
Level 2 risk -- screening guidelines
Doctors are uncertain about the best guidelines for screening for level 2 risk people. It is recommended that the person discuss the guidelines with their doctor to decide what is best. Some factors, which may influence the decision, include:
Level 3 risk -- screening guidelines
Level 4 risk - screening guidelines
Please note that all of these recommendations are general guidelines. No matter what level risk a person has, it is best to discuss the guidelines with the doctor to decide what age and testing interval might be best in their particular case.
Cancer of the colon can be prevented by removing the polyps. And when colon cancer does occur, it can often be cured when detected very early. These are the aims of screening.
For more information, please visit our Colon Cancer Center.
Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004