3 Strategies to Prevent Colorectal Cancer in Patients

Health Plans

3 Strategies to Prevent Colorectal Cancer in Patients

Ash Team

Colorectal cancer, one of the most prevalent forms of cancer worldwide, remains a significant public health concern. However, the good news is that this type of cancer is largely preventable with early detection and lifestyle modifications. Public health departments, health plans, and providers can work with patients to implement proactive strategies that reduce their chances of developing colorectal cancer. 

Colorectal Cancer Causes 

Colorectal cancer affects the colon or rectum and typically develops from precancerous polyps, abnormal growths in the lining of the colon or rectum. Environmental exposures cause 90% of colorectal cancers, including a low-fiber and high-fat diet, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use, which occurred decades before a patient was diagnosed.

Key Strategies for Prevention

While providers can work directly with patients to discuss colorectal cancer detection, health plans and public health departments can also initiate screening programs or educate on diet and exercise to improve outcomes for patient populations. Here are three strategies to prevent colorectal cancer in patients: 

1. Offer FIT Screening for Early Detection

Regular screening for colorectal cancer is essential for detecting precancerous polyps or early-stage cancer when treatment is most effective. Screening methods include colonoscopy, fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), and stool DNA tests.  

A FIT screening can be performed at home. It is an at-home diagnostic test that detects concealed blood in the stool. In comparison to alternative tests, FIT boasts superior accuracy and yields fewer false positives. Health plans can offer FIT screenings to members to improve colorectal cancer outcomes and meet the colorectal cancer screening requirement for HEDIS

Talk with Ash Wellness about closing care gaps for health plans with FIT screening programs. 

2. Educate on Diet and Lifestyle

To effectively educate patients on the link between diet, exercise, and colorectal cancer risk, providers and public health departments can implement targeted strategies:

  • Nutrition Education: Offer informative sessions or materials that highlight the connection between diet and colorectal cancer risk. Emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Encourage patients to reduce consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and red or processed meats, which have been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Physical Activity Promotion: Promote regular physical activity as a key component of colorectal cancer prevention. Provide resources such as exercise guides or referrals to fitness programs that encourage patients to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Highlight the benefits of physical activity not only for colorectal cancer risk reduction but also for overall health.
  • Smoking Cessation and Alcohol Awareness: Offer support and resources for smoking cessation to help patients quit smoking, as tobacco use has been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Similarly, raise awareness about the impact of alcohol consumption on colorectal cancer risk and encourage moderation or abstinence from alcohol. Provide information on the recommended limits for alcohol intake and the potential benefits of reducing alcohol consumption for cancer prevention.
  • Fiber-Rich Diet Promotion: Educate patients about the role of fiber in colorectal cancer prevention and promote a high-fiber diet. Offer guidance on incorporating fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts into their daily meals. Emphasize the benefits of fiber for promoting regular bowel movements and reducing the risk of constipation, which is associated with colorectal cancer risk.
  • Red and Processed Meat Reduction Strategies: Provide information on healthier protein alternatives such as poultry, fish, and plant-based proteins. Offer tips and recipes for reducing consumption of red and processed meats and encourage patients to make gradual dietary changes towards a more balanced and cancer-preventive diet.

3. Promote Medical Check-ups and Genetic Counseling

Patients with a family history of colorectal cancer or certain genetic syndromes may have an increased risk of developing the disease. In such cases, regular medical check-ups and genetic counseling can provide valuable insights into personalized risk assessment and management strategies. Healthcare providers can offer tailored recommendations and screening protocols based on genetic profiles and family histories.

How Ash Wellness Supports Colorectal Cancer Screening

Ash Wellness offers a customized at-home diagnostic platform for hospitals, public health departments, accountable care organizations, and consumer or state health plans to improve  patient outcomes and quality metrics. Our extensive network of CLIA/CAP certified labs, provider of record API, white-labeled kitting capabilities, and digital tools enable clients to quickly launch new programs, often within a few weeks. Read more about FIT screening from Ash Wellness. 


Colorectal cancer is a largely preventable disease, and patients can take proactive steps to reduce their risk and promote early detection. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular screening, and making informed choices, patients can significantly lower their chances of developing colorectal cancer.

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