Dr. LaPook says a colonoscopy is the "gold standard" for screening for colon cancer. He recommends that men who are in good health and have no family history of colon cancer have their first screening at age 50, then follow up with additional screenings every 10 years afterward. Men whose physicians determine that they might be at greater risk of developing colon cancer should have a colonoscopy earlier in life and more frequent repeat exams, he says.
Dr. LaPook warns against the prevailing misconception that colon cancer is a disease that only affects men, the elderly or people with a family history of the disease. In fact, he says not only are women also affected by the disease, but that 70 percent of people who get colon cancer do not have a family history of the ailment and that 10 percent of people who develop the disease are under the age of 50.
Moreover, Dr. LaPook says it's a dangerous myth that a person could detect colon cancer on their own. Polyps, which can lead to colon cancer, almost never cause any type of symptoms—nor does the cancer until it is far advanced, Dr. LaPook says. "You have a big window of opportunity to go in there when people are totally asymptomatic and pluck out the polyps," he says. "What would you rather do: have cancer or not have cancer?"