Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention

Colon Cancer Screening

Individuals age 50 or older should get routine screening for colon cancer. If a person is at high risk, he or she should strongly consider screening before 50.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in the US. There is strong evidence that having regular screening tests for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 reduces deaths from colorectal cancer. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon and rectum, and polyps can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer can be prevented. Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best and the chance for a full recovery is very high.

Our colorectal team offers you the following screening procedures:

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) - An at-home test that checks for occult (hidden) blood in the stool. This test is recommended yearly. (If blood is found, a follow-up colonoscopy may be needed.)
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy - This test is conducted at the doctor's office, a clinic or a hospital. The doctor uses a narrow, flexible, lighted tube to look at the inside of the rectum and the lower portion of the colon. During the exam, the doctor may remove some polyps (abnormal growths) and collect samples of tissue or cells for closer examination. This test is recommended every five years. (If polyps are found, a follow-up colonoscopy will be needed.)
  • Colonoscopy - Colonoscopy is conducted in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital. The patient is given a sedative to make the procedure more comfortable, while the doctor uses a narrow, flexible, lighted tube to look at the inside of the rectum and the entire colon. (This test is similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the tube used is longer and allows the doctor to see the entire colon.) During the exam, the doctor may remove some polyps (abnormal growths) and collect samples of tissue or cells for closer examination. This test is recommended every 10 years or more frequently, depending on findings and risks.
  • Fuse® Full Spectrum Endoscopy® - Fuse® is a ground-breaking colonoscopy technology that almost doubles the view of the colon at 330 degrees. In fact, a study recently published in The Lancet Oncology determined that 69% more polyps were detected with Fuse® than with a forward-viewing colonoscopy. So you can take comfort in knowing that it’s possible to detect more pre-cancerious lesions, or adenomas, during your routine colonoscopy. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in exploring Fuse®.

Colon Cancer Prevention Tips

Researchers have found several risk factors that may increase your chance of developing colorectal polyps and/or colorectal cancer. Several of these risk factors like age, racial and ethnic background, and personal history are out of our control and cannot be changed. Some lifestyle-related factors, though, including diet, body weight, and physical activity, can. Here’s how.

Colorectal Health: What Can I Do?

Colorectal Health: What Can I Do?

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Eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains

High intake of these types of food has been linked with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer. You should aim to include at least 2 ½ cups of a variety of colorful whole fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Including fruits and vegetables, at each meal and snack, may be an effective way to increase consumption. Choosing whole grains and whole grain products, may also be helpful. Additional fiber supplements do not seem to lower your risk.

Limit intake of red and processed meats

Diets high in processed meats (bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, hot dogs) and red meats (beef, lamb, or liver) have been associated with elevated risk for colorectal cancer. You should aim to limit your intake of these, and choose fish, poultry, or beans as often as you can. Choosing leaner cuts and smaller portions may be helpful strategies if you occasionally eat red meat. When cooking , it is recommended to do so by baking, broiling, or poaching. Cooking meats at very high temperatures (frying, broiling, or grilling) creates chemicals that might increase cancer risk, but it’s not clear at this time how much this might contribute to an increase in colorectal cancer risk.

Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D

Several studies have found that this may aid in protecting against colorectal cancer. Because of the possible increased risk of prostate cancer in men with high calcium intake, the American Cancer Society does not recommend increasing calcium intake specifically to try to lower cancer risk.

Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection

Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Dietary efforts toward this end can be very effective and should be geared toward choosing foods and drinks in amounts that help you get to and maintain that healthy weight. This may include limiting intake of high-calorie foods and drinks, and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

No “one size fits all” when it comes to nutrition. Consulting with a nutrition professional , such as a registered dietitian, may be a helpful way to obtain personalized guidance toward a nutrition plan that meets your individual needs and preferences.