Colon Cancer Prevention & Genetic Testing

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers since it develops from polyps that can be removed during routine colonoscopies. An estimated 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening.

Colon Cancer Prevention

Symptoms of colon cancer often don’t appear until it’s advanced, therefore colon cancer screenings are essential. Screening tests can detect colon cancer earlier when treatment is most likely to be effective.

Who Should Be Screened for Colon Cancer?

Screening for colon cancer is recommended for everyone age 45 and older who is at normal risk for colorectal cancer. Talk with your Mercy primary care physician about the timing of your screenings. Depending on your risk factors, you may need to be screened earlier and more often.

Colon Cancer Screening Test Options

There are several different screening options available. Ask your Mercy primary care physician which colon cancer test is best for you. Most insurance companies are now required to cover colorectal screening tests, often with no out-of-pocket costs. Check with your health plan for details. Take steps to prevent colorectal cancer or detect it as early as possible. Be sure to talk with your Mercy doctor about screening tests and timing.


colonoscopy is considered the best option for detecting and removing polyps before they become cancerous. It can detect and remove up to 90% of polyps or tumors, however, it may not detect small or flat lesions less than 9mm. People at normal risk for colorectal cancer are recommended to get one every 10 years. This is typically an outpatient procedure, although it requires bowel preparation.

Stool-Based Tests

Stool-based tests include the fecal immunochemical test and fecal occult blood test. These are non-invasive screening options, however, they only detect colon blood. Positive findings require follow-up care and testing since conditions other than polyps can cause bleeding.

Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

  • Recommended annually
  • Stool sample collected at home
  • Detects blood in the colon
  • Dietary restrictions may be required
  • 20-50% detection for colorectal cancer

Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)

  • Recommended annually
  • Stool sample collected at home
  • Detects blood in the colon
  • 80% detection for colorectal cancer

Genetic Testing for Colorectal Cancer

About 25% of people have immediate family members with a history of colorectal cancer. If you’re among them, your doctor may recommend genetic counseling or testing. Several genetic tests are used to detect mutations that predispose you to colorectal cancer. Mercy genetic counselors help you understand your risks and determine whether you or your loved ones should be tested. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk with a Mercy genetic counselor about your risk factors and next steps.

What's Involved in Genetic Testing for Colon Cancer?

A saliva or blood sample is collected for testing, and results are typically available in two to four weeks. Depending on your results, a Mercy genetic counselor may meet with you to discuss cancer surveillance strategies and testing other family members.

Does Insurance Cover Genetic Testing?

Most insurance companies will cover the cost of genetic testing if you meet the test criteria.  If you don’t have insurance coverage, programs are available to help.

Why Test at Mercy?

Mercy offers compassionate care from a highly experienced team. We perform hereditary risk assessments and provide long-term strategies for managing your risk. Contact a nearby location to see how Mercy can help you take the next step.

Colon Cancer Prevention

We know fighting cancer can feel overwhelming. At Mercy, you’ll find the care and support you need during treatment, recovery and beyond.