“The best test is the test that gets done,” sums Anjee Davis, president of Fight Colorectal Cancer, a national nonprofit whose purpose is simple: prevention.

Where we stand

The American Cancer Society estimates almost 50,000 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected this year alone. The most important first step you can take is talking to your doctor about screening. Colorectal cancer is not only preventable; it’s treatable, if caught early.

The best path to prevention is screening, screening, screening. This cancer begins in the colon or rectum as a polyp. Screen for these polyps, and they can be removed before they turn into cancer if it’s caught early.

Nipped in the bud

“Our goal is to prevent colorectal cancer,” says Davis, “or catch it at its earliest stage before it becomes stage 2, 3, or 4 cancer.” Screening rates have improved over the last five years, but Fight Colorectal Cancer isn’t satisfied. Their aim, alongside 1,000 organizations across the country, is to commit to a national goal of 80 percent screened by 2018.

“...almost 50,000 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected this year alone.”

It’s important to know if you’re at an increased risk by having a family history of colorectal cancer, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or other inherited conditions. Davis says, “[Those people who fit those criteria] may be advised to start screening before age fifty or have more frequent screenings.

The misconceptions

Some of the more frequent reasons people avoid getting screened (or just don’t think about it) are: “My doctor never recommended it.” “I don’t have symptoms. I am okay.” And “I can’t afford it.” To that last point, the Affordable Care Act currently covers preventive care screenings, including colonoscopies.

“Getting screened boils down to taking time off from work, finding transportation, and the out-of-pocket expenses,” says Davis. However, colonoscopies aren’t the only screening methods—there are safe and effective options available. It’s as easy as talking to your doctor about which one is best for you.

Researchers have now found a way to screen for colorectal cancer in blood samples. Convenience and low cost are important to people, as they should be. “A blood test could help reduce those barriers,” Davis argues. Screening isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. It’s important to know your options and pick the test that is best for you, your budget and your lifestyle. The best test is the test that gets done.