Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal Cancer Can Be Preventable

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death. A colorectal screening can prevent and identify this cancer early at its most treatable stages.

Sanford Health recommends colorectal cancer screenings for all adults ages 45 to 75. Talk with your primary care provider about which screening options are best for you.

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What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer begins in the colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner wall of the colon called a polyp. Not all polyps become cancerous, but some do.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer. That’s why screenings are so important – they can catch cancer early when it’s most treatable.

Some screenings can even help prevent colorectal cancer from developing. During a colonoscopy, colorectal specialists find and remove abnormal polyps before they can become cancerous.

Risk factors include:

  • Age (45 or older)
  • Ethnicity (Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native)
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Sex (males are at a higher risk)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Long-term smoking
  • Unhealthy alcohol use

Why Get Screened?

People sometimes delay getting screened because they’re concerned about time, cost, embarrassment or a lack of symptoms. But people can still develop colorectal cancer even without a family history, symptoms or other risk factors.

Catching colorectal cancer as soon as possible makes a big difference. When it’s detected early through a colonoscopy or other screening, the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is about 90%.

Learn more about colonoscopies.

Your Screening Options


Colonoscopies take place at the hospital, and you’re given a light sedative or medication to help you sleep through the procedure.

During the procedure, specialists use a lighted scope with a camera to examine the colon and rectum. They’ll also remove any precancerous polyps.

We recommend getting a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 45.

To prepare for a colonoscopy, you’ll need to fast and perform a colon cleanse with a laxative. These screenings are covered by insurance in most cases.

How to Schedule a Colonoscopy

If you’re 45-years-old or older and due for a screening, call your local clinic or request a colonoscopy through My Sanford Chart. Go to Menu and select Request a Colonoscopy, located near the bottom of the Communication section.

If you’re under age 45, you may need a colonoscopy if you:

  • Are experiencing symptoms such as blood in stool, abdominal pain or a change in bowel habits
  • Have a family history of colon cancer

Talk to your primary care provider to identify the best screening options for you.

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Stool Tests

With stool tests, you’ll collect a sample at home and submit it to the lab. It takes one to two weeks to get results back.

If your results come back normal, you should get screened every one to three years depending on the test. If the results aren’t normal, you’ll need a colonoscopy.

Stool tests require no dietary restrictions or preparation and are covered by insurance in most cases.

Screening stool tests are an option for low-risk patients. Talk with your provider to see if it’s a good option for you.

Sanford Health offers these stool tests:

Sanford Polymedco Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
This lab test checks stool for blood, which can be an early indicator of colorectal cancer.

Cologuard is a type of FIT-DNA test that checks stool samples for blood and cancer DNA biomarkers.

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