Colorectal Cancer Program

Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Screening Guidelines

Prevention Guidelines

Avoiding certain risk factors and engaging in other protective factors may help lower one's risk of colorectal cancer. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Lack of regular follow-up and screening
  • Being Overweight
  • Smoking
  • Consuming high amounts of red meat and/or drinking excessive alcohol.
  • Not getting enough exercise or physical activity

There are some risk factors that we cannot change. The following risk factors can put you at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer:

  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • A family history of genetically hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch syndrome)

Although you may not possess risk factors or may not be considered high risk you should consult with your physician if you exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in your stool or during bowel movement or dark stool
  • Change in bowel movement or feeing incomplete emptying
  • Unexplained and unintentional weight loss
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Change of stool caliber

Screening Guidelines

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in the United States. Each year more than 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. However, if the cancer is detected and treated while still at a localized stage (Stage 1) the five-year survival rate can be greater than 90%.


The American Cancer Society recommends colorectal cancer screening for those with an average risk of developing colorectal cancer beginning at age of 50, and beginning at age 45 for African Americans. The frequency of screening depends on the type of test done and the result. Those who are considered to have an increased or higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening before the age of 50 or more often based upon the recommendations of their physician.

Types of Tests for Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colonoscopy is considered "The Golden Standard" when it comes to screening for colorectal cancer and polyps. Screening recommendations should be made by your physician who is best informed of your medical history.

  • Colonoscopy: The entire length of your colon is examined using a lighted tube called a colonoscope. If your physician finds any polyps during this examine he/she will be able to remove any polyp(s) found.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: The lower part of the colon (sigmoid) and the rectum are examined using a sigmoidoscope which is a shorter lighted tube.
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): Used to find blood in feces that cannot be visually seen. To properly complete this test, there are drug and dietary restrictions for a few days prior to collecting stool sample at home. Blood is detected in the test through a chemical reaction conducted in a laboratory. If your FOBT results are positive, it is important to follow-up with your physician for further recommendations.
  • ‚ÄčFecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): Used to find abnormal proteins in stool through reactions to proteins in the red blood cells. There are no drug and dietary restrictions prior to collecting the stool samples for this test at home. Similar to other fecal tests, this test also requires further diagnostic testing if positive.
  • Double-Contrast Barium Enema: An x-ray procedure (also termed a lower GI) that takes place after barium is instilled into the rectum and colon and then filled with air. This procedure provides a detailed view of the outline of the colon and rectum, and can also detect (but not remove) polyps.