Colorectal Cancer Screening and Prevention

Colorectal cancer can affect anyone of any age. However, patients who have risk factors for colorectal cancer have a higher chance of developing the disease. Whether or not you have associated risk factors, it’s important to take measures to prevent the disease and receive regular colorectal cancer screenings.

If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you can rest assured that our teams of highly knowledgeable doctors and nurses are devoted to you from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care and will answer any questions you may have.

The MedStar Health Cancer Network has joined forces with the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable by pledging to support the “80% by 2018” initiative – a nationwide goal to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80% in the next two years. Learn more about the partnership

How often should I be screened for colorectal cancer? Shweta Kurian, MD, medical oncologist, explains the answer to this important question in the video below. Learn more here

Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Screening

Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in the colon or rectum. In most cases, the disease begins from noncancerous growths, also known as polyps. The key to preventing colon cancer is regular cancer screenings, especially for patients who are age 50 and older or those that have risk factors associated with the disease.

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

There is no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer from developing. However, there are steps you can take and risk factors you can avoid to lower your chances of colorectal cancer.

Body weight: Both overweight or obese men and women are at the greatest risk of colorectal cancer. If you are overweight, you can lower risk by losing weight.

Physical activity: People with low levels of physical activity are at increased risk for colorectal cancer. You can lower your risk by increasing your activity level.

Diet: Studies have linked diets rich in red meats (beef, pork and lamb), processed foods and fried foods increased risk of colorectal cancer. You can lower your risk of developing the disease by eating foods that are high in fiber such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Smoking: Smoking has been linked to many types of cancer, most commonly associated with lung cancer. However, smoking increases your risk of colorectal cancer as well. By quitting smoking, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Alcohol: Heavy alcohol has also been linked to increased risk. By lowering your alcohol consumption, you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

However, some risk factors associated with colorectal cancer cannot be avoided. Examples of these include family history of rectal cancer, age and race. Learn more about colorectal cancer risk factors.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Screening is the process of looking for cancer and is the most important step you can take to prevent colon cancer from developing. Screenings, such as a colonoscopy, allow your doctor to see inside your rectum and colon to look for the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and find noncancerous polyps before they develop into the disease.

Beginning at age 50, 45 for African-American men and women, those at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should undergo regular screenings. Health care providers may suggest one or more of the tests listed below for a colorectal cancer screening.

  • Colonoscopy: A lighted instrument called a colonoscope is used to inspect the rectum and entire colon. Colonoscopy can find precancerous or cancerous growths throughout the colon, including the upper part of the colon, where sigmoidoscopy would miss them.
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test: This test checks for hidden blood in the stool. Studies have proven that this test, when performed every 1 to 2 years in people age 50 to 80, reduces the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: A lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope is used to examine the rectum and lower colon. Sigmoidoscopy can find precancerous or cancerous growths in the rectum and lower colon. Studies suggest that regular screening with sigmoidoscopy after age 50 can reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer.

If you or someone you know has a colorectal problem or if you need a screening test, call the MedStar Health Cancer Network for an appointment at 877-715-HOPE. Our expertise can make a big difference in getting the right diagnosis and the right treatment, right away.

If you are a Baltimore County resident and do not have health insurance that covers the cost of the screening, diagnosis or treatment services, and have a low income, you may qualify for free colorectal cancer screening services. Call 410-887-3456 to see if you qualify. Learn more.

If you are 50 or older, live in Baltimore City and have a low income, you may qualify for one of a limited number of free screening colonoscopies. Call 410-554-6590 to see if you qualify. Learn more.

Learn more about colorectal cancer, including treatments provided by MedStar Franklin Square:

Location Information

For a physician referral, please call 443-777-7900.

For more information about our clinical trials, please call 443-777-7364.

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

Learn about all MedStar Health Baltimore Cancer Network colorectal cancer treatment locations 

Colorectal Cancer Specialists 

Jeffrey Ferris, MD, colorectal cancer surgeon

Learn More