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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Colorectal Polyps and Cancer

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How Can I Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Living a healthy lifestyle that includes no smoking, regular exercise, maintenance of a healthy weight, and a diet that is low in red meat and high in vegetables and fruit is probably your best start at general cancer prevention.

Some studies have shown that aspirin and other drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, may help prevent colon cancers, but this is usually in patients with familial adenomatous polyps, a condition discussed below. NSAIDs also carry increased risks of serious complications, such as stomach bleeding, heart attacks and strokes, so they are not recommended as a general preventive measure for people at average risk for colorectal cancer.

Screening for cancer is another important step.

General Colorectal Cancer Screening Recommendations:

These recommendations are for people at average risk for colorectal cancer without symptoms or a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. Screening should begin at age 50.

  • Stool tests (fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test) performed once a year. These are simple at-home tests that check for hidden blood in the stool from multiple samples. A colonoscopy should be done if stool test results are abnormal. OR
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy performed every 5 years. This is an outpatient procedure for examining the inside of the lower portion of the large intestine, called the sigmoid colon, and also the rectum. This test can miss polyps, cancer, or other abnormalities that are beyond the reach of the scope. If abnormalities are detected, a colonoscopy needs to be done. OR
  • Colonoscopy, performed once every 10 years; this is the preferred test.
  • Air contrast barium enema performed every 5 years; during this procedure, a barium enema is given and then air is blown in to make the barium spread over the lining of the colon, producing an outline of the inner colon and rectum on X-ray. This test can miss small polyps or cancer. If any abnormalities are detected, a colonoscopy is needed.
  • CT colongraphy (virtual colonoscopy) performed every 5 years. This can miss small polyps. If any abnormalities are detected, a colonoscopy is needed.

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