The test: A doctor checks your rectum and colon for polyps with a flexible tube. Polyps are usually harmless, but some (adenomas) can become cancerous. Doctors can remove them during a colonoscopy.
Who should have it: Those over age 50 need a baseline colon-cancer screening, says David Lieberman, M.D., chief of gastroenterology at Oregon Health & Science University. (People at high risk may need it earlier.) Opt for a colonoscopy if you’ve had inflammatory bowel disease for more than eight years; a parent, child, or sibling with colon cancer before age 60; or a large adenoma removed. Check with a specialist if you have genetic condition like Lynch syndrome.
For others, flexible sigmoidoscopy (which looks at your lower colon), or a fecal occult blood test or fecal immune chemical test (lab tests that check stool for blood) may be equally effective, according to a study in JAMA last year. If your first colonoscopy finds no adenomas or cancer and your risk is normal, get another in 10 years. If one or two adenomas are removed, go in five years.
Who can skip it: Those over age 75, unless they have a family or personal history of colon cancer or adenomatous polyps.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health October 2017
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