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Rectal Cancer Prevention and Screening

Rectal Cancer Screening

Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re healthy and don’t have symptoms. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for successful treatment are best.

When it is detected very early, rectal cancer has a greater than 90% chance for successful treatment. That’s why you should be screened regularly.
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 colorectal cancer, visit Cancer Screening Guidelines.

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

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

  • 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 this information 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?

  • Minimally invasive and sphincter-preserving surgeries for rectal cancer
  • Advanced radiotherapy including proton therapy and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • Novel chemotherapy and targeted therapies for rectal cancer
  • Leading-edge diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy including endoscopic ultrasound, endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) and endoluminal stent placement
  • Clinical trials for all stages of rectal cancers

Rectal Cancer Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Rectal cancer is treated in our:

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Rectal Cancer Risk Factors

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

  • Age: Rectal cancer is found most often 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
  • Eating a lot of red meat, processed meats or meats cooked at very high heat
  • Diabetes Type 2
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol

Not everyone with risk factors gets rectal cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor. If you are concerned about inherited family syndromes that may cause rectal cancer, we offer advanced genetic testing to let you know your risk.

Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Rectal Cancer Prevention

Certain lifestyle choices may lower your chances of getting rectal 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. Read more about MD Anderson’s smoking cessation clinical trials.
  • 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