Screening colonoscopies typically begin for average-risk Americans at the age of 45. Depending on the findings, subsequent screening intervals will be recommended by your physician. Intervals of five or 10 years are common.
People at increased risk for the disease, such as those with inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer, should discuss individualized recommendations for colonoscopies with their care provider, including the timing of the first screening and the frequency of subsequent screenings. If you have questions about your unique circumstance, speak to your health care provider.
Sometimes patients don’t think they’re at risk for colorectal cancer because no one in their family has ever had the disease, but more than 80 percent of cases occur in someone without a family history of the illness, and colon cancer is often asymptomatic in the early stages.
According to the American Cancer Society, symptoms of colon cancer can include:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Although these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, it’s important to seek prompt medical care to determine the cause.