What are the screening recommendations for rectal cancer by risk factor?

Updated: Apr 06, 2021
  • Author: Burt Cagir, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Screening recommendations by risk factor are as follows:

  • First-degree relative affected: Offer family members the same screening tests as the general population; however, begin the screening at age 40 years rather than age 50 years. These people often undergo colonoscopy as their initial screening test, particularly if the relative was diagnosed with cancer at a young age.

  • Family history of FAP: Genetic counseling and genetic testing are recommended to determine whether the person is a gene carrier. Current tests are approximately 80% accurate. In the remaining 20%, the mutation cannot be identified. Genetic testing is useful only if the test result is positive or if the test is a true negative (ie, mutation present in other family members are not identified in the patient being tested). Flexible sigmoidoscopy should be offered to known gene carriers and persons with an indeterminate carrier status every year to look for polyps. When polyposis develops, consider colectomy.

  • Family history of HNPCC: Genetic counseling and genetic testing should be offered to individuals whose family histories meet the Amsterdam criteria (see Causes, above). Patients with documented HNPCC should undergo colonoscopy every 1-2 years when 20-40 years of age and every year when older than 40 years. Since these cancers tend to be located on the right side of the colon, flexible sigmoidoscopy is not recommended.

  • Personal history of adenomatous polyps: Patients who have adenomatous polyps removed during colonoscopy should have a repeat examination at 1 to 3 years. If the findings of this examination are normal, follow up at 5 years.

  • Personal history of colorectal cancer: Patients who have colorectal cancer and undergo resection for cure should have a repeat colonoscopy after 1 year. If this examination reveals no abnormalities, follow up at 3 years. In the absence of disease, perform colonoscopy every 5 years thereafter.

  • Personal history of IBD: Surveillance colonoscopy is performed to look for dysplasia as a marker for colorectal cancer in patients with long-standing IBD. These patients should undergo colonoscopy every 1-2 years after 8 years of diffuse disease or after 15 years of localized disease. Random biopsies are performed at specific intervals throughout the colon and rectum. Colectomy is recommended when dysplasia is present.

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