Screening for Colorectal Cancer | Cancer Screening, Prevention, Control | JAMA | JAMA Network
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JAMA Patient Page
May 18, 2021

Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Author Affiliations
  • 1Associate Editor, JAMA
JAMA. 2021;325(19):2026. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.6557

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently published updated recommendations on screening for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of either the colon (large intestine) or the rectum, which are the lower parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Colorectal cancer mostly affects older adults. However, in recent years, the rate of diagnosis in adults younger than 50 years has been increasing. Symptoms of colorectal cancer include changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, and sometimes blood in the stool. Colorectal cancer can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, or sometimes radiation therapy.

Direct visualization looks at the colon and rectum using a scope and camera (colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy) or by computed tomography (CT) scan (CT colonography, also called virtual colonoscopy). These tests require bowel preparation using laxatives to empty the colon and rectum beforehand. Stool-based tests involve collecting a sample of stool to look for either blood or abnormal genetic material, both of which can be signs of cancer. Examples include the high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test, fecal immunochemical test, and stool DNA test.