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:

  • Level 1 risk: The person does not have a family member who has had colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps. Or the person has a family member who had colorectal cancer or a polyp but the affected family member is not their parent, sister, brother or child.