What Are Screenings Like?
There are several tests that you can have to screen for colorectal cancer (CRC) or for precancerous polyps.
Screening means that your colon and rectum are being checked to see if there are any signs of cancer or of cellular changes that could lead to cancer. Screening is done as part of preventive care, and not because a patient is having symptoms.
If you are having symptoms of colorectal cancer, then your test likely will be diagnostic (following up on symptoms to determine the cause) rather than screening.
Your doctor can help you decide which test is right for you. If you are considered to be at average risk for CRC, you will have more choices. For people who are considered to be at higher risk, colonoscopy may be the only appropriate screening test.
Colonoscopy is the only test that can not only look for cancer, polyps and other precancerous lesions. It also is the only test during which polyps can actually be removed, preventing them from possibly progressing to cancer.
Several of the available tests require a full bowel cleansing beforehand, which your doctor's office will explain to you and help you manage.
If you do have a test other than colonoscopy, and there is a positive result (a suspicion of polyps or cancer), then you will need to have a colonoscopy to follow up and take a thorough look at your colon and rectum. Information about all of the screening options is found on the "Which Screening Is for Me?" page.
On this page, we will talk about colonoscopy.
ASGE has a helpful video if you are preparing to have your first colonoscopy.