Promoting Colorectal Screenings: Forms, Purpose, and Benefits of Screenings

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so now would be a great time to spread awareness and urge your employees to get screened.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a type of cancer that occurs when polyps form in the colon. It is typically found in individuals over the age of 50 and is the third most common form of cancer found in men and women. CRC affected over 134,000 Americans in 2016, but getting screened regularly reduces the impact of the condition and ensures the health of patients.

What Is the Purpose of Screening?

Colorectal cancer screenings are extremely important, as this form of cancer does not always exhibit symptoms; when it does, they are often signs that could also signify other illnesses, making it difficult to make an accurate diagnosis. Therefore, screenings are often given to individuals who do not exhibit any cancer symptoms. This sort of diligence can save lives by discovering polyps in the early stages.

Different Types of Screenings

Before all screenings, patients must consult with their doctors to understand what the procedures entail. All screenings require an emptying and cleaning of the colon and rectum. Some allow for a clear liquid diet and fast the day before a screening (CT Colonography), while most others require fasting (only consuming water) for one day and the use of laxatives. Doctors should be informed of any medications that patients are using to ensure the safest treatment.

  • Colonoscopy: This test is administered by a doctor using a flexible light tube to examine the entire colon and rectum for cancerous obstructions and polyps. The patient is sedated just before the test, and the screening takes about half an hour, but can last longer if a polyp is found. Following the exam, many patients feel bloated and groggy, but this is considered one of the safest screening methods.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
    This test uses a shorter flexible tube than a colonoscopy. The doctor checks the lower third of the colon for polyps or other signs of cancer. This screening is administered in 10 to 20 minutes without the need for sedation. The lack of sedation can create discomfort in patients while the test is administered, but most patients recover quickly after the exam. 
  • CT Colonography
    This screening test is the least invasive. The virtual colonoscopy is a 10-minute procedure in which a medical professional inserts a small flexible camera into the rectum and colon, and scans them using x-ray imaging. Side effects often include minor bloating and cramping. 
  • Stool Tests 
    There are various types of stool tests, but the Center for Disease Control has identified the three most common:
    • Guaiac-based Fecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBT)
      This is an at-home test done using guaiac to test a stool sample for blood with minimal preparation required. Doctors may instruct patients to avoid certain foods and alter medication intake within a 48-hour period before taking the sample. 
    • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
      Similar to the gFOBT, this exam requires no dietary restrictions before taking the sample. The FIT is done once annually at home and uses antibodies to detect blood in a sample. The home kit uses smaller sample sizes in tubes or paper cards to detect any blood in the sample. 
    • FIT-DNA Test
      This test incorporates the FIT antibody test but instead detects alternations in DNA in a sample. This screening is non-invasive, there is no dietary requirement, and it can be done at home.

What Are the Benefits of a Healthier Workforce?

For a long time now, both academia and businesses have studied health in the workplace. The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) has found that the most common variable affected by an unhealthy workforce is productivity, but quality of performance is also affected. Therefore, employers have invested heavily in health programming in recent years, which increases morale and decreases healthcare costs overall.

How to Promote Screenings in the Workplace

Working in concert with human resources departments and their healthcare providers is the most efficient means to ensure screenings take place. Given the sensitive nature of health issues, especially this issue, it may seem difficult to create palatable content. However, the culture of wellness relies on accountability at all levels. The most efficient forms of promotion are informational packets and seminars about screenings. Some healthcare providers already have models set up to target sensitive populations (smokers, obesity, etc.) that promote health and wellness.


Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests. (2017, January 27). American Cancer Society. Retrieved from

Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests. (2016, August 8). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from 

Healthy Employees Make Productive Employees. (2017). American Institution for Cancer Research. Retrieved from

Workplace health promotion. (2017). World Health Organization. Retrieved from