Skip to main content

Featuring Dr. John Hughes, Gastroenterology specialist, Main Campus


Scientific data indicates that screening to detect and remove early, precancerous polyps is the most important thing you can do to prevent colorectal cancer. In addition, says Kelsey-Seybold board-certified Gastroenterologist specialist John I. Hughes, M.D., M.A.C.P., A.G.A.F., there are a few easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting colorectal cancer. These healthy choices could also help reduce your risk of other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

Here's what you can do to prevent colorectal cancer:

  • Get moving. Even a small amount of daily exercise - a 20-minute walk - can make a big difference in your overall health.
  • Minimize alcohol consumption.
  • If you smoke, stop. If you don't smoke, don't start.
  • Eat healthy. A low-fat diet, high in fiber, fruits and vegetables, may help.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin, baby aspirin or aspirin-like drug and calcium supplements.
  • Know your risk factors.
  • Talk to your family doctor about colorectal cancer and screening tests.
  • Get screened. If you have any symptoms of colorectal cancer, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, if you are a man or woman age 50 or older, schedule a visit with your family doctor as soon as possible. Insurance will generally cover any procedure your doctor uses to diagnose the problem.

"There are a lot of exciting, new developments on the horizon," notes Dr. Hughes. "Over the past 15 years, scientists have learned that a series of changes in the cells' DNA can cause normal cells to become malignant. Some people are born with these mutations in their cells. Some day, we may have a simple blood test which may allow us to detect the hereditary predisposition to developing colorectal cancer. There are also new, noninvasive screening options, such as 'virtual colonoscopy,' but it is too soon to say how effective they will be."

Who Is At Risk for Colorectal Cancer? Who Should Get Tested?

  • All men and women age 50 and over should be tested regularly for colorectal cancer. For those at average risk, this includes an annual digital rectal exam and fecal occult blood test. In addition, men and women age 50 and over should talk to their doctor about regular preventive screenings. These include flexible sigmoidoscopy (generally recommended once every 5 years if the first test is normal), a colonoscopy (once every 10 years if the first test is normal), or a barium enema (once every 5 to 10 years if the first test is normal).
  • Men and women who are at higher risk because they have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, need to be screened before age 50. In addition to an annual digital rectal exam and fecal occult blood test, they should be given regular preventive screenings every three years regardless of whether the first test is normal.
  • Women with a personal or family history of ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer may also need to be screened before age 50.​​