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What is colorectal cancer screening?

Screening is a strategy used in a population to detect a disease in individuals without signs or symptoms of that disease. The intention of screening is to identify disease in a community early, thus enabling earlier intervention and management in the hope to reduce morbidity and mortality from a disease. However, not all cancer types are suitable for screening; a “suitable” cancer type should meet the following criteria:

  • morbidity of this cancer type is relatively high,
  • an effective treatment for early stages of this cancer type is available,
  • an affordable test exists for the detection of this cancer type

Main benefits of screening tests involve significant improvements in disease prognosis, together with the prospect of less radical (mostly also less expensive) treatment which, in fact, is usually much more effective. The following screening programmes have proved to be highly effective:

  1. cervical cancer screening,
  2. breast cancer screening,
  3. colorectal cancer screening.

General recommendations

Colorectal cancer screening consists in regular faecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or in primary screening colonoscopy. It a simplified way, it is recommended that:

However, these general recommendations only apply to asymptomatic individuals (i.e., persons without any symptoms) and can vary significantly in different people. You might also want to have a look at our interactive guide to colorectal cancer screening to find out which screening method is the most suitable for you.

Generally speaking, malignant tumours can be treated relatively easily and effectively if they are detected at an early stage. You are therefore strongly advised not to hesitate and to visit your doctor if you belong to a risk group.

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 Last updated on 2 February 2015