Colon Cancer Screening

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Colon cancer is the #2 cause of death from cancer in the U.S. The good news: We can prevent more than half of these deaths. Colon cancer screening doesn't only find cancer. We can also remove polyps before they become cancer in the first place.

Who Needs Colon Cancer Screening?

One in 24 Americans is at risk of developing colon cancer. You have an increased risk if a family member has had it.

But even if you don't have a family history of colon cancer, you need to get screened. You should begin screening for colon cancer at age 45.

At UVA, we aim to have 80% of the eligible adults in our community screened. We share this goal with the National Colorectal Cancer Round Table.

Learn About Your Screening Options

Often, colon cancer has no symptoms in its early stages. Long-term survival depends on catching it early. Find several options for screening at UVA. View screening options transcript.

Colon Cancer Screening Options

Colonoscopy

Only a colonoscopy can both find and treat colon cancer. A doctor uses a flexible tube with a camera to examine your entire colon. This test requires bowel and food prep, as well as sedation. You only need one every 10 years.

Find out how to prepare for a colonoscopy.

Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)

This home kit looks for hidden blood in your stool, an early sign of colon cancer. Food and medicine do not interfere with the results. So this test has greater accuracy than other home kits.

This accurate, inexpensive test takes 5 minutes to complete at home. You'll need to repeat it yearly.

CT Colonography

This technique uses computed tomography (CT) to create and examine a 3D image of your entire colon. While very good at finding large polyps, this scan can miss small polyps.

This procedure takes less time than a colonoscopy. You do need to do a bowel prep. You'll have to repeat this screening every 5 years. 

Learn about the types of colorectal cancer.

FIT-Fecal DNA (Cologuard® )

This FDA-approved stool test finds altered DNA in your stool, a sign of colon cancer. A stool-collection kit arrives by mail to your home. You mail the sample to a testing lab. Your doctor receives the results.

This home kit allows you to skip bowel prep and other food and drink restrictions. But the results tend towards false positives. It costs more than other tests. Doctors recommend taking this test every 3 years. It's available by prescription only.

Colon Cancer Screening FAQs

Q. When should I get screened?

You should get your first screening at age 45, if you have an average risk. If you have a higher risk, you may need to start earlier. Talk to your doctor about your risk. Contact your insurance to see what your plan covers.

Q. How do I know my risk?

Your might have a high colon cancer risk if you have:

  • A family history of colon cancer
  • Certain genetic factors
  • Chronic digestive conditions, like ulcerative colitis

Q. What kind of screening should I get?

Several methods exist; each has pros and cons. Talk with your healthcare provider about which test makes the most sense for you.