A screening colonoscopy looks for polyps or cancer in someone with no symptoms. Most screening tests like PAP smears, mammograms and PSA are designed to find cancer early. A colonoscopy goes one better and can prevent you from ever getting colorectal cancer. Many insurance companies will pay for the entire cost of the procedure without copays or deductibles. The recommendations to start screening for colon and rectal cancer are:
If a person has never had colorectal cancer or polyps and has no relatives with cancer or polyp then age 50
If a first degree relative (parent, sibling or child) had cancer or polyps diagnosed after age 60 or 2 second degree relatives have had colorectal cancer then age 40
If a first degree relative was diagnosed with cancer or polyps at or before age 60 or 2 first degree relatives at any age then age 40 or 10 years before the youngest affected relative whichever is first
If a person has a history of multiple family members with cancer even of different kinds of cancer, they should talk with their doctor about genetic testing as they may need to start screening as early as age 20 or even in younger in special circumstances.
If the test is normal, it may only need to be repeated every 10 years.