10 ways to encourage loved ones to get screened for colorectal cancer

10 ways to encourage loved ones to get screened for colorectal cancer

10 ways to encourage loved ones to get screened for colorectal cancer

You can make a difference by helping a loved one detect colorectal cancer or early.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults ages 50 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer.1 However, screening rates for colorectal cancer remain low – one-quarter of adults between 50 to 75 have never been screened.2

While many people are aware of the benefits of getting screened, they may need a little encouragement from their family and friends to follow through. You can play a significant role in your loved one’s health by providing that support. 

The reasons why some people are not up to date with their screenings vary, so trying a range of approaches to motivate them is essential. Here are 10 ways you can help your loved one get screened for colorectal cancer:

1. Ask your loved one if they have considered getting screened.

It can be a sensitive topic, so plan your approach. You could start the conversation by saying, "I heard on the news that one-quarter of people ages 50 to 75 haven't been screened for colorectal cancer.1 I didn't know that. Did you?"

2. Seek to understand why they haven't been screened.

Your friend or family member may be afraid to go to their healthcare provider for a colorectal cancer screening or doesn't know what to say to their healthcare provider. Once you understand what is holding your loved one back from getting screened, you can help them overcome that barrier.

3. Appeal to your loved one's emotional side.

Remind your friend or family member just how much you love them and that you want to enjoy spending time together for as long as possible. While they may not prioritize getting screened for themselves, they may be inspired to do it for you or someone they love. Not getting screened could result in getting diagnosed at a later stage of colorectal cancer when it may be more challenging to treat.3

4. Then try to appeal to their logical side.

Ask your friend or family member if they know the facts about why screening for colorectal cancer is important. Do they know that the risk of colorectal cancer increases at age 50?4 Do they know that when caught early, 90 percent of colorectal cancers are treatable?3 Sharing these facts with them may help address some of their concerns.

5. Send an email with helpful resources.

If you're not comfortable talking with them directly about getting screened for colorectal cancer, send them an email. Provide some important resources – such as the Screening and Prevention page on this website – so that they can learn about the importance of getting screened and their screening options.

6. Talk with them about the different options available today.

Many people think that a colonoscopy is their only screening option. Technology advancements have enabled other screening methods, including structural or visual exams (such as flexible sigmoidoscopy and virtual colonoscopy) and at-home, noninvasive stool tests (such as fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), fecal occult blood tests(FOBT), and multi-target stool DNA test (also known as Cologuard®). Suggest that your loved one talk with their healthcare provider about the most appropriate screening option for them.

7. Connect them with a friend who has recently been screened.

Who better understands the process of getting screened than someone who has gone through it? Ask someone else who has been tested to bring up the conversation with your friend or family member. They may offer insights you won't get from other resources.

8. Lead by example and get screened yourself. 

If you are between 50 to 75 years old, then make sure you talk to a healthcare provider about getting screened. Going through the process will allow you to better explain it to your loved one. And if you're due for a colorectal cancer screening, invite your loved one along on the healthcare provider’s visit.

9. Celebrate once they are up to date with their screenings.

When they follow through with their colorectal cancer screening, find a meaningful way to mark the achievement together, such as a night out on the town or going away for the weekend. Reward their efforts in staying up to date with their colorectal cancer screenings.

10. Check in with them after they get screened about their results.

Don’t leave it up to your loved one to let you know how they’re doing after the screening – both physically and emotionally. Ask them about the testing and let them know you will be there to offer support when they get their results. Find out what they need to do next or when they are next due for re-screening.

Be patient with your loved one’s effort to get screened for colorectal cancer. If they aren't receptive at first, try again with a different approach. But don't resort to nagging or scolding, which are unlikely to convince them to get screened.

Instead, focus on ways to provide them with the support and information they need to feel comfortable talking with their healthcare provider about getting screened and then following through.

To learn more about the importance of screening for colorectal cancer, visit our Screening and Prevention page.


1 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Colorectal Cancer: Screening. June 2016. Accessible at:  Accessed February 2019. 

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quick facts: colorectal cancer screening in U.S. 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/pdf/QuickFacts-BRFSS-2016-CRC-Scr… Accessed February 2019.

3 Caner.net. Colorectal Cancer: Statistics. 2018. Accessible at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/colorectal-cancer/statistics Accessed February 2019.

4 Cancer.net. Colorectal Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention. 2018. Accessible at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/colorectal-cancer/risk-factors-and-prevention Accessed February 2019.

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