Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

HIGHLIGHTS

Open
America's Winter Escapes Sweepstakes
Introducing RealPad by AARP
You and Your Town Contest-You could win an AARP RealPad

AUTO BUYING PROGRAM

AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

What Health Screenings Do You Really Need If You Are Over Age 50?

8 key tests the experts recommend

Colorectal cancer: sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy

The tests: A fecal occult blood test simply requires a stool sample to check for blood. In two other screenings — sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy — you must drink a preparation that purges your system. Then the doctor inserts a thin tube equipped with a tiny camera into the bowel to look for precancerous or cancerous growths. A sigmoidoscopy inspects only the lower colon, but a colonoscopy examines the entire colon.

The guidelines: The task force recommends screening with any of the three tests for people ages 50 to 75. Testing regimens, it says, can include a yearly fecal occult blood test, a sigmoidoscopy every five years with fecal occult blood testing every three years, or a colonoscopy once a decade. Another group, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, ranks the screening methods, saying tests like fecal occult blood screens can detect early stage cancers, but the colonoscopy is considered a method for prevention.

What to consider: Scientific evidence supports the lifesaving potential of both fecal occult blood tests and, to an even greater extent, sigmoidoscopy, which may reduce colorectal cancer deaths by more than 40 percent. For years colonoscopy has been considered the gold standard of colon cancer screening in the United States, because it looks at the entire colon. But recent observational studies cast doubt on whether colonoscopy cuts mortality any more than the simpler sigmoidoscopy. Patient preference is key because both of these tests are more rigorous than many other health screenings. Sigmoidoscopy requires somewhat less purging of the bowel beforehand, and generally no sedation, so the patient can get home unaided. On the other hand, some patients may prefer the sedation that helps them remain relaxed or sleep through a colonoscopy.

The bottom line, says Sidney J. Winawer, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and former chair of the Multi-Society Task Force, is that any of the recommended tests is far better than no test at all. "The best test is the one that gets done well," he says.

Next: Heart disease screenings. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Grandson (8-9) whispering to grandfather, close-up

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points