Skip to Content

Colon Cancer Prevention and Screening

Colon Cancer Screening

Cancer screening exams are medical tests done when you’re healthy with no signs of illness. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for curing the disease are best. When it is found early, colon cancer has a good chance for successful treatment. That’s why it is important to get regular tests.

MD Anderson recommends the following screening guidelines for people at average risk with no colorectal cancer symptoms. Beginning at age 50, men and women should follow ONE of these screening schedules: 

Colonoscopy every 10 years (preferred by MD Anderson; polyps can be removed during the test)

Virtual colonoscopy (also known as CT colonography) every five years. A colonoscopy will be performed if polyps are found. If you choose a virtual colonoscopy, check with your insurance provider before scheduling an exam. Not all insurance providers cover the cost of this exam.

Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year. This take-home test finds hidden blood in the stool, which may be a sign of cancer. A colonoscopy will be performed if blood is found.

Read about MD Anderson’s screening guidelines for people at increased risk.

For more information about screenings for colon cancer, visit Cancer Screening Guidelines.

To make an appointment for a screening colonoscopy or other colorectal cancer screening test at MD Anderson, call 713-794-5073 or request an appointment online.

After screening

Review your screening colonoscopy report and make note of what was found, including the:

  • Number of polyps
  • Type of each polyp
  • Size of each polyp

To get a copy of your colonoscopy report, call the clinic or doctor who did the test. Ask for both the colonoscopy and pathology reports. Share these reports with your doctor at your next check-up. The doctor will use this information to decide if your chances of getting colon cancer are higher than normal.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Advanced colon cancer treatments, including minimally invasive surgery, novel chemotherapies and targeted therapies
  • Proton therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • Leading-edge diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy including endoscopic ultrasound, endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) and endoluminal stent placement
  • Noninvasive virtual colonoscopy, which we helped pioneer
  • Clinical trials for all stages and types of colon cancer

Colon Cancer Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Colon cancer is treated in our:

Find Your MD Anderson Location


Colon Cancer Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting colon cancer is a risk factor. Colon cancer risk factors include:

  • Age: Rectal cancer is much more common in people over 50 years old
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Inherited disorders such as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC or Lynch) syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Race or ethnic background: African Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) are at higher risk
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or chronic ulcerative colitis)
  • Colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet: If you eat a lot of red meat, processed meats or meats cooked at very high heat, you may be at higher risk for colon cancer.
  • Diabetes Type 2
  • Cigarette smoking (Read more about MD Anderson’s smoking cessation clinical trials)
  • Drinking too much alcohol

For patients who are concerned about inherited family syndromes that cause colon cancer, we offer advanced genetic testing to let you know your risk.

Colon Cancer Prevention

Certain lifestyle choices may decrease your chances of getting colon cancer. Try to:

  • Have regular screening tests
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid cigarettes
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation

Research shows that many cancers can be prevented. Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center