From Our 2008 Archives
New Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines
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American Cancer Society Issues New Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines Emphasizing Prevention
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
March 6, 2008 — Colon cancer experts today issued new guidelines about colon cancer screening tests.
The new guidelines, which emphasize colon cancer prevention, come from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology.
Here's the simplest guideline: If you're age 50 or older, you need to get routine screening for colon cancer. If you're at high risk, you may need to start screening before 50. That recommendation isn't new, but it often goes unheeded.
Beyond that, the guidelines split colon cancer tests into two groups — tests that lookinside the body and those done on stools.
Tests done inside the body can spot cancer and polyps (abnormal growths that may develop into cancer). Stool tests primarily focus on detecting cancer, not polyps, according to the American Cancer Society.
Here are the American Cancer Society's recommendations for both types of tests.
Tests for Cancer and Polyps
If you're looking for a test that can spot cancer and polyps, the American Cancer Society recommends choosing between these options:
This is the first time that virtual colonoscopy has made the American Cancer Society's list of acceptable screening tests.
If you're looking for a stool test, here are the choices recommended by the American Cancer Society.
The American Cancer Society notes that stool tests are less likely to prevent cancer than tests that look for cancer inside the body. Also, stool tests must be regularly repeated. And if a stool test finds blood in stools, patients should get a colonoscopy.
About the Tests
Here is a quick look at the recommended tests:
The new guidelines are posted in today's advance online edition of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
SOURCES: Levin, M. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, March 5, 2008; advance online edition. News release, American Cancer Society. WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Colorectal Cancer — Detection & Treatment."
© 2008 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
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