Preventing Colon Cancer


Colonoscopy Offers the Best Prevention

There is good news and bad news when it comes to colon cancer. The bad news is that colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The good news is that it is one of two types of cancer that can be prevented with screening (cervical cancer is the other preventable cancer). According to the American Cancer Society, about 60 percent of all colon cancer fatalities in the United States could be prevented if every man and woman over 45 years of age chose to be screened for colon cancer.

More than any diet or exercise regimen, a colon screening offers the best prevention when it comes to colon cancer. The disease almost always begins with a polyp, a small cluster of cells in the lining of the colon or rectum. During a screening, a gastroenterologist looks for polyps that are cancerous or may develop into cancer.

There are many screening methods available, but colonoscopy is the most thorough screening procedure because it allows your doctor to see the entire length of the colon to examine for polyps, lesions and abnormalities. Other screening methods like flexible sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, double contrast barium enema, and fecal occult blood test are valuable, but they are incomplete in their conclusions and often require further testing.

A colonoscopy offers:

Preventative Care

Your doctor can give you the “all-clear” if no polyps or adenomas are found during the screening.


Your doctor can often remove small precancerous polyps during the colonoscopy so they will not develop into cancer.


If your doctor finds a suspicious polyp or growth, a biopsy can be performed to test the cells for cancer. If necessary, treatment can begin immediately.

Other Means of Prevention

Know Your Risk

People at average risk for developing colon cancer should begin regular screening colonoscopies at age 45. However, you should be screened sooner if you have a family history or are African American. Learn more about risk factors here.

Healthy Choices are a Good Start

A healthy lifestyle is another great way to prevent colon cancer and other cancers. Eating nutritious foods and getting regular exercise are important components in preventing colon cancer. A diet based on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, along with consistent physical activity, helps prevent the accumulation of toxins in the digestive tract and reduces inflammation in the colon. Other healthy lifestyle choices like avoiding smoking and alcohol can help prevent cancer cells from developing in the colon.

Stay Current with Doctor Visits

Finally, staying in close communication with your doctor can help prevent colon cancer. If you have been visiting your doctor regularly before you have your baseline colonoscopy, chances are that you will follow recommended screening guidelines. It is also more likely that you will feel more comfortable discussing any changes in digestive or bowel habits with your doctor.

If you knew that a screening could protect you from a deadly disease, you would choose to be tested, would you not? A colonoscopy may be the most important test you ever take. If you follow other preventative measures, you have the best opportunity to remain colon cancer free.

Find out if you’re eligible for a free or reduced cost screening colonoscopy

Take the Quiz