Public Health Idaho North Central District offers confidential HIV testing and provides accurate information about the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Colon cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps, which are abnormal growths in the colon or rectum. During a procedure called a colonoscopy, the polyps are removed before they turn into cancer. If everyone age 50 and over were screened for colon cancer, many colon cancer deaths would be prevented. Learn more key facts about colon cancer.
It is recommended that beginning at age 50 (earlier if you have a family history), both men and women should use one of the screening tests below.
Tests that find polyps and cancer
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years: A procedure to look inside the rectum and sigmoid (lower) colon for polyps (small pieces of bulging tissue), abnormal areas, or cancer. A sigmoidoscope is inserted through the rectum into the sigmoid colon. A sigmoidoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
- Colonoscopy every 10 years: A procedure to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. A colonoscope is inserted through the rectum into the colon. A colonoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
Tests that mainly find cancer
With all of the following tests, you receive a test kit from your health care provider. At home, you use a stick or brush to obtain a small amount of stool. You may be asked to do this for several bowel movements in a row. You return the test to the doctor or a lab, where stool samples are checked for blood.
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year