IBD and colon cancer: How often do you need screening?

Understand the link between IBD and colon cancer. If you have a certain type of IBD, you'll need more frequent screening.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You may be worried about the connection between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer if you have IBD, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. It's important to understand that IBD doesn't necessarily lead to colon cancer.

If you have Crohn's disease that affects the lower part of your large intestine (colon), however, this does increase your risk of colon cancer. As a result, you'll need more frequent screening for colon cancer to help diagnose and treat the problem early. In addition, this type of IBD may limit your choices for colon cancer screening.

There are several common colon cancer screening tests — including colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography), fecal occult blood test and flexible sigmoidoscopy. The best screening test for people with Crohn's disease that affects the lower part of the colon is colonoscopy. This screening test uses a long, flexible and slender tube attached to a video camera and monitor to view your entire colon and rectum. If any suspicious areas are found, your doctor can pass surgical tools through the tube to take tissue samples (biopsies) for analysis.

General colon cancer screening guidelines for people without Crohn's disease call for a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50. However, depending on how long you've had Crohn's disease and how much of your colon is involved, you may need a colonoscopy as often as every one to two years. Talk to your doctor about the best colon cancer screening schedule for your particular situation.

Dec. 27, 2014 See more In-depth