Ask the doctor: Colorectal cancer screenings


Dr. Arakawa

With Dr. Gordon Arakawa

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer found in men and women. Colorectal cancer happens when cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to get a screening. Here are a few things you need to know.

What is a colorectal cancer screening? Why is it important?

A colorectal cancer screening is when your doctor checks to see if you have any precancerous polyps (small clumps of cells) or signs of colorectal cancer. The screening is used to check for disease even if you don’t have any symptoms. It is important to check for cancer through regular screenings, because early treatment works best to help prevent serious health issues.

It is important to check for cancer through regular screenings, because early treatment works best to help prevent serious health issues.

Am I at risk for colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is most commonly found in adults ages 65 to 74. However, there has been an increase in colorectal cancer in adults 40 to 49 years old.

You might be more likely to develop colorectal cancer if:

  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Someone in your family has had colorectal cancer or polyps.

There are other parts of your lifestyle that can affect your risk level for colorectal cancer, including diet, exercise, and use of alcohol and tobacco products.

female patient in doctor's office looking at computer screen

When should I get screened for colorectal cancer? How often should I get screened?

If you are 45 to 75 years old, you should be screened once a year for colorectal cancer.

How do I set up a screening?

Talk to your doctor. They can help you understand which kind of screening will be best for you.

Does the Alliance cover colorectal cancer screening?

Yes. You can be screened for colorectal cancer at no cost to you.

What should I do if I have questions?

Contact your doctor’s office if you have questions about colorectal cancer screening.

Dr. Arakawa is a Medical Director at Central California Alliance for Health, serving the Modesto-Merced areas.

About the contributor:

Maureen Wolff Stiles

Maureen Wolff Stiles works as Digital Communications Content Specialist for the Communications Department at Central California Alliance for Health (the Alliance). She works with a variety of the health plan’s experts to strategically tailor informative, engaging materials for members, providers and the communities the Alliance serves. Maureen has been with the Alliance since 2021. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.

Written in collaboration with subject matter expert: Gordon Arakawa MD, Medical Director