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Colorectal Cancer Screening

If you are at risk for colorectal cancer, you should schedule a colonoscopy at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. When doctors catch cancer early, it is easier to treat and there is a higher chance of a complete cure.

You may be at risk for colon cancer if you:

  • Are 50 years or older
  • Are of African-American or Eastern European Jewish descent
  • Have a family history of colon cancer
  • Are overweight, inactive or use tobacco or alcohol

Colorectal Cancer Screening: Procedures

There are a number of methods doctors use in order to screen patients for colorectal cancer. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Fecal occult blood test. This test looks for hidden blood in stool. Samples of stool from three bowel movements are collected and analyzed.
  • Stool DNA test (Cologuard). This test looks for elevated levels of altered DNA and hidden blood in stool. A single stool sample can be collected at home and sent to the lab.
  • Sigmoidoscopy. Your doctor examines your rectum and lower colon using a thin, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope. Abnormal growths and polyps can be removed or biopsied.
  • Colonoscopy. This is similar to a sigmoidoscope, but it examines your entire colon. Abnormal growths and polyps can be removed or biopsied.
  • Virtual colonoscopy. Also called computerized tomographic colonography, this test uses a special X-ray to obtain images of your colon and rectum. The images show any polyps or other abnormalities. It is less invasive than a colonoscopy.
  • Double contrast barium enema. During this test, we administer an enema with a barium solution. We perform an X-ray. The barium coats the colon and highlights any abnormalities.
  • Digital rectal exam. Your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to feel for abnormalities.

Your doctor will discuss with you the advantages and risks for each type of procedure.