Screening for Colon Cancer: What You Need to Know

nurse navigator

March is colorectal cancer awareness month and there’s no better time to learn about detecting this preventable form of cancer. Take action by knowing your risk for colon cancer and scheduling screenings to prevent or detect the disease as early as possible. 

When colorectal cancer is found at an early stage, the five-year survival rate is around 90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, only about 40 percent of colorectal cancers are found at this early stage.

Raising awareness of the importance of early detection of colon cancer remains a high priority for the Renown Institute for Cancer, especially considering Nevada ranks 48th when it comes to colorectol cancer screening rates.

Get With the Guidelines

An important message to remember: A colonoscopy is still the best at finding and removing cancerous polyps in the colon. For most people, Renown Institute for Cancer recommends:

  • If you meet certain risk factors, a formal colorectal cancer risk assessment should be performed by your primary care doctor.
  • At age 50, you should be getting a colonoscopy every 10 years. Depending on the results, your doctor may schedule more frequent screenings.
  • African Americans should begin colon cancer screenings at age 45.
  • If you are 76 or older, talk with your doctor. They will take into account your overall health and prior screening history before scheduling a colonoscopy.

What About an At-Home Screening Option?

You may have heard about an at-home stool test, called a FIT, which stands for Fecal Immunochemical Test. It’s quite simple and discreet: With a stool sample collected in the comfort and privacy of your bathroom, the sample is mailed to a screening center which can detect hidden traces of blood, often the first sign of cancer.

And regular screening is Prevention 101. Although a colonoscopy is the preferred method, the FIT Test makes it much easier to stay on track with annual screenings.

“Prevention is key to a healthy lifestyle,” says Kat Neilan RN, BSN, OCN, nurse navigator at Renown Institute for Cancer. “Part of colon cancer prevention is completing the appropriate screenings at the appropriate intervals. Having a conversation with your primary care provider about screening is a crucial step in your overall health maintenance.”

Don’t wait for signs and symptoms of colon cancer to appear. Talk with a health care provider about when you should begin screening for colorectal cancer and, if so, which test(s) to get. Lastly, check with your health insurance provider to see if screening costs are covered.

To learn more, join Craig M. Sande, M.D., FACG, gastroenterologist, for a free lecture March 22 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Renown Regional Medical Center’s Mack Auditorium. The lecture will include:

  • Risk factors, including how family history plays a role
  • Screening options to detect colon cancer
  • The importance of getting a formal colorectal cancer risk assessment

To RSVP, please call 775-982-RSVP or email

You can also learn more by visiting to read about risk factors, signs and symptoms, screening and treatment options.