Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Prevention: Colorectal Cancer

Reduce Your Risk

Although the exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, it is possible to reduce the risk of developing many colon cancers with the following:

Diet And Exercise

Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods and avoiding high-fat, low-fiber foods may help reduce a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. Appropriate exercise, even small amounts on a regular basis, also can be helpful.

Drug Therapy

Recent studies of people with colorectal cancer have suggested that two factors may help reduce the risk of developing this cancer: estrogen replacement therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin. Consult your doctor to determine if this therapy may be beneficial for you.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is available at Sylvester and is used in cases of suspected Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC).


Perhaps most important to the prevention of colorectal cancer is having screening tests at appropriate ages. The American Cancer Society suggests that a substantial number of colorectal cancers can be prevented with screening and removal of precancerous polyps. Because some colorectal cancers cannot be prevented, finding them early is the best way to improve the chance of successful treatment.

Screening Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer screening guidelines (for early detection) from the American Cancer Society include:

Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of the examination schedules below:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year
  • Fecal immunochemical test every year
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every five years
  • Annual FOBT and FSIG every five years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every five years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years

Individuals with any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors should begin screening procedures at an earlier age and be screened more often:

  • Strong family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous (benign mushroom-shaped growths inside the colon) polyps in a first-degree relative, in a parent or sibling before the age of 60, or in two first-degree relatives of any age
  • Family with hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
  • Personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease

Screening Methods

Screening methods for colorectal cancer include the following:


A procedure that allows the doctor to view the entire length of the large intestine, and can often help identify abnormal growths, inflamed tissue, ulcers, and bleeding. It involves inserting a colonoscope, a long, flexible, lighted tube, in through the rectum up into the colon. The colonoscope allows the physician to see the lining of the colon, remove tissue for further examination and possibly treat some problems that are discovered.

Virtual Colonoscopy

A minimally invasive alternative to conventional colonoscopy that uses computed tomography (CT) scanning to identify polyps and cancers in the large intestine. Sylvester/UMHC’s advanced screening technology – with multi-detector CT can detect polyps and cancerous tumors early – when colon cancer is most treatable. Printable Virtual Colonoscopy Factsheet

Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)

A physician or health care provider inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for anything unusual or abnormal.

Fecal Occult Blood Test

Checks for hidden (occult) blood in the stool. It involves placing a very small amount of stool on a special card, which is then tested in the physician’s office or sent to a laboratory.


A diagnostic procedure that allows the doctor to examine the inside of a portion of the large intestine, and is helpful in identifying the causes of diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, abnormal growths, and bleeding. A short, flexible, lighted tube, called a sigmoidoscope, is inserted into the intestine through the rectum. The scope blows air into the intestine to inflate it and make viewing the inside easier.

Barium Enema With Air Contrast (also called a double contrast barium enema)

A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray) is entered into the rectum to partially fill up the colon. An X-ray of the abdomen shows strictures (narrowed areas), obstructions (blockages), and other problems.