Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is a common type of cancer that affects the colon (large intestine). Is it is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths, claiming 56,000 lives a year, but colon cancer is curable when detected at an early stage, which is why screening is so important.

Often, before the disease begins, small tissue growths called polyps develop in the colon. These growths can become cancerous over time if left untreated. By detecting and removing polyps early, colon cancer may be cured or even prevented entirely. Having regular screenings beginning at age 50 means that polyps can be detected earlier, when removal and treatment are most effective. People with a personal history of polyps, colon cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease, or who have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, are at a higher risk and may need to be tested before age 50, and be tested more frequently.


  • The most important thing to know about colon cancer: It's one of the most preventable cancers.
  • There are often no early warning signs for colon cancer you can feel great and still have colon cancer.
  • Risk for colon cancer increases with age. The majority of cases (93 percent) occur in men and women age 50 and older.
  • Screening tests can reduce deaths from colon cancer by identifying polyps before they become cancerous. Screening also detects cancer early, when treatment is most effective and survival rates are high.
  • An equal number of women and men get colon cancer. An estimated 75,700 women and 72,600 men were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2002.

There are four colon cancer screening tests. Talk with you doctor about which ones may be right for you. Click on each of the screenings below at to learn more about each screening:

There are many colon cancer screening tests. Talk with your doctor about which ones may be right for you. Find out more at

  • Get regular screening tests if you are age 50 or older
  • Try to learn about your family's cancer history.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits daily.
  • Avoid tobacco, and, if you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Maintain a healthy weig

At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts it is important to us that all our members who are 50 years and older are getting regularly screened for colorectal cancer. To help increase member and physician awareness of and participation in regular colorectal cancer screening we have developed a program to remind our members who are in the appropriate age group to be screened to get screened. Members who are overdue for their screening may receive a reminder phone call or postcard and we work with physicians to educate and encourage them to talk to their patients about the importance of colorectal cancer screening.