When Should I Have a Colonoscopy?

From the National Center for Farmworker Health, this Colorectal Cancer Screening video spotlights why it’s so important for those ages 50-75 years old to consider screening even if symptoms aren’t apparent.

Turning 50 seems to sneak up on most of us—suddenly it happens. Along with that milestone and all the celebration is also when colorectal cancer screenings are first recommended for people who do not have risk factors.

As referenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increased risk factors include:

  • You or a close relative has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease, Chrone's disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • You have certain genetic syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polypopsis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolypopsis colorectal cancer.

According to the American Cancer Association, starting at age 50, both men and women should follow the following testing plans:

Tests that find polyps and cancer include:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*, or
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*

Tests that mostly find cancer:

  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT)**, or
  • Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**, or
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA) every 3 years*

*If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.
** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done in the office is not enough. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

While any kind of cancer screening may not seem like the best of this year's birthday "gifts"—consider it one. Routine testing may prevent your odds of developing colorectal cancer.

Given this, if you have any questions about the timing of screening for colorectal cancer, please speak up! Also, don't be surprised if we bring it up as you're approaching your 50th birthday, particularly if you have any of the aforementioned risk factors.

It's a priority for your One Community Health provider and health care team to raise awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer detection and prevention through appropriate screenings.

Sources: American Cancer Society® and

Additional Resources: CDC Screen for Life Resource Toolkit and Quiz



Tracy Welker
Communications Developer, One Community Health