“I don’t have any symptoms of colon cancer so I don’t need to screen.”

It’s easy to recognize that the above statement is naïve but, if you’re honest with yourself, it’s a likely reason you’re putting off screening for colon cancer.

“Early detection” is a good thing, but what does that mean practically?

  • Higher survival rate and lower recurrence rate. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery found that patients with locally advanced rectal cancer diagnosed through screening had longer disease-free survival and lower recurrence rates than patients diagnosed through symptoms.
  • Higher likelihood of multidisciplinary team assessment and care. A study published in the Journal of Medical screening in June 2017 compared colorectal cancer cases that were detected through screening versus those that weren’t detected through regular screening. The authors found that screening detected cancer patients were staged and multidisciplinary team assessed more extensively than patients with non-screening detected cancers.
  • Less emergency surgery. The same June 2017 study found that emergency interventions for colorectal cancer occurred in 4% of screening participants versus 11% of non-screening participants.

Even for patients who are diagnosed at the same stage of cancer progression, those who arrived at the diagnosis through screening fared better than those who were diagnosed because they were showing symptoms of disease.

 The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 and continuing until 75 years of age. See a summary of the types of colon cancer screening tests available here.