Early Screening: Your First Line of Defense Against Colon Cancer

Although colon cancer is one of five most common cancers in the United States, it’s possible to greatly reduce your risk and even prevent colon cancer.

The key is to catch it early, when USC experts can stop it from spreading with innovative treatments. Your first line of defense against colon cancer is a screening.

Screening Options

Since undiagnosed individuals do not typically show symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer, regular, proactive screenings are essential starting at age 50. If you have any symptoms or family history with colon cancer, start screening at an earlier age and get evaluated for genetic predisposition. Discuss the most appropriate type of screening with your Keck Medicine of USC physician.

Your options may include:

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(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273)

  • Colonoscopy – The most common screening; examines the rectum and entire colon using a lighted instrument, performed every 10 years
  • Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonoscopy) – Takes images of the colon using a CT scan, performed every 5 years
  • Sigmoidoscopy – Examines the rectum and lower colon using a lighted instrument, performed every 5 years
  • DNA stool test – Tests for DNA markers shed by cancer cells of precancerous polyps
  • Staging test ­– Estimates how far a particular cancer has penetrated into the colon, whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs and to determine the best method of treatment

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

In addition to regular screenings, watch for the following symptoms. Schedule an appointment with your USC physician if you notice:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in the stool
  • Recurring stomach discomfort such as gas, cramping or pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Problems related to blood loss (anemia, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, pounding or racing heart, chest pain and intolerance to exercise)
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely 


If you are diagnosed with colon cancer, or want a second opinion, the experts of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and the USC Digestive Health Center will work with you to develop a comprehensive, customized treatment plan. Depending on your stage of cancer, you may be eligible to participate in one of our clinical trials to test new drugs and therapies that may offer new treatments.

Make an appointment

To discuss your risk factors or diagnosis, request an appointment or call (800) USC-CARE.