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Colorectal cancer occurs in the colon or rectum. That's the lower part of your digestive system. It often starts in small growths called polyps in the colon or rectum. Polyps are usually found with screening tests. Depending on the type of test, any polyps found may be removed during the tests.
Colorectal cancer usually does not cause symptoms at first. But regular tests can help find it early, before it spreads and becomes harder to treat. Watch Why should I get screened for colorectal cancer (video) or visit screeningforlife.ca to learn more.
Your risk for colorectal cancer gets higher as you get older. If you are not at high risk, experts recommend regular screening for adults ages 50 to 74. Talk with your doctor about your risk and when to start and stop screening. You may have one of several tests.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
The screening tests are:
The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is the recommended colon cancer screening test. It checks stool samples for signs of cancer. Watch How do I get screened for colorectal cancer (video) or visit screeningforlife.ca to learn about getting a FIT in Alberta. If your test is positive, you will need to have a colonoscopy.
This test lets your doctor look at the lining of your rectum and the lowest part of your colon. Your doctor uses a lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope. This test can't find cancers or polyps in the upper part of your colon. In some cases, polyps that are found can be removed. But if your doctor finds polyps, you will need to have a colonoscopy to check the upper part of your colon.
Your risk for colorectal cancer gets higher as you get older. If you are not at high risk, experts recommend regular screening for adults ages 50 to 74. Talk with your doctor about your risk and when to start and stop screening.
How often you need screening depends on the type of test you get:
Experts agree that people at higher risk may need to be tested sooner and more often. This includes people who have a strong family history of colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you and when to be tested.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have:
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Adaptation Date: 9/14/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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