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Colon Cancer Screening

Average Risk Individuals | High Risk Individuals | For More Information

Colon, or colorectal cancer, is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. The lifetime risk for developing cancer of the colon and rectum is 1 in 20 (5%). Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers with proper screening and evaluation.

At NorthShore, our board-certified gastroenterologists have performed countless screening colonoscopies – the gold standard of colon cancer screening tests. A screening and diagnostic tool, colonoscopy helps to prevent colon cancer through the removal of polyps. Precursors to the development of cancer, colon polyps develop in up to as many as half the adult population. About 10% of polyps could progress to colon cancer if undetected and left in place to grow. While the progression from polyp to cancerous tumors could take years, screening colonoscopies effectively lower, if not eliminate, the odds of dying from this common disease for both average risk and high risk individuals.

NorthShore provides lifesaving screening colonoscopies and other colon cancer screening tests that are of the highest quality at all of our GI Lab locations. Not only are our facilities recognized for quality and safety by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy , a leading gastrointestinal medical society, but also our GI experts have achieved a colon polyp detection rate well above the national average. Our personalized services consistently earn us top patient satisfaction ratings.

We offer convenient colon cancer screening times that fit into any busy schedule on weekdays, Saturday and Sunday.

Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines for Average Risk Individuals

More than 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in those who are 50 or older. Everyone over the age of 45 should follow national screening guidelines and continue screening at regular intervals at least until 75 years of age.

You are considered at average risk if you have if you have no personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps and do not have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and have NOT experienced any of the following risk factors for colon cancer:

  • bleeding
  • change in bowel habits
  • abdominal pain
  • iron deficiency anemia (low iron/low blood count)

Tests that Detect Colorectal Cancer and Screening Intervals

  • Endoscopy
    A screening colonoscopy continues to be the gold standard for detecting polyps and colorectal cancer. 


    Every 10 years 

    Flexible sigmoidoscopy with FIT/gFOBT 

    Every 10 years flex w/yearly FIT/gFOBT 


    Capsule Colonoscopy

    Remains experimental


  • Radiology (Will require a colonscopy if abnormal)
    Radiographic tests such as CT colonoscopy and double contrast barium enema (DCBE) can also detect many large polyps or colon cancer. These tests, though, are not as reliable for discovering small polyps and require a follow-up colonoscopy if abnormal. 

    CT Colonography

    Every 5 years 

    Barium Enema

    Every 5 years


  • Stool Only (Will require a colonscopy if abnormal)
    While not considered preventative, other screening tests are available for diagnosing early colorectal cancer. They include simple stool tests to spot hidden blood in the stool and advanced stool DNA tests that look for DNA mutations in the stools cells potentially caused by colon cancer and require a follow-up colonoscopy if abnormal.

    Mail-in gFOBT




    FIT DNA (Cologuard)

    Guidelines vary, manufacturer recommends every 1-3 years


Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines for High Risk Individuals

Colon or colorectal cancer (CRC) screening for high risk individuals is strongly recommended depending on your family or personal history with polyps or colon cancer among other risk factors. Polyps usually do not cause symptoms. You are considered at higher risk if you have symptoms or a family history, including:

  • bleeding
  • change in bowel habits
  • abdominal pain
  • iron deficiency anemia (low iron/low blood count)
  • certain genetic syndromes (i.e. Lynch Syndrome, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, MUTYH Associated Polyposis)
  • abdominal radiation for childhood cancers
  • inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • a personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps

Family History

Age to Start CRC Screening

1st degree relative with CRC, advanced adenoma (>1cm, high grade dysplasia, villious histology), or advanced serrated lesion (sessile serrated adenoma or traditional serrated adenoma >1cm) diagnosed at < age 60

- OR -

2 or more first degree relatives with CRC or advanced adenoma or advanced serrated lesion at any age

Start at age 40 or 10 years before youngest relative (whichever is younger) and repeat every 5 years




1st deg relative with CRC, advanced adenoma (>1cm, high grade dyspplasia, villious histology), or advanced serrated lession (sessile serrated adenoma or traditional serrated adenoma >1cm) diagnosed at > age 60

Start at age 40 and repeat based on findings

For More Information

For more information or to schedule a screening colonoscopy with one of our gastroenterologists, please call 888.364.6400.