Screening tests can help find cancer at an early stage, before symptoms appear. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat or cure. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have grown and spread. This can make the cancer harder to treat or cure.
It is important to remember that when your doctor suggests a screening test, it does not always mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no cancer symptoms.
If you are at average risk for colorectal cancer, start having regular screenings at 45 (Note: New recommendation as of May 2018). If you are at greater risk, you may need to begin regular screenings at an earlier age. The best time to get screened is before any symptoms appear.
People at increased risk because of a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps or because they have inflammatory bowel disease or certain inherited conditions may be advised to start screening before age 45 and/or have more frequent screening.