In recognition of colorectal cancer awareness month, The Sarah Cannon Cancer Center is offering free in-home screening kits to test for hidden blood in the stool—the earliest and most frequent symptom of colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal tract disorders.

Colorectal cancer risk increases with age, with more than 90 percent of cases diagnosed in individuals aged 50 and older. The disease is the third most common cause of cancer death in men and women in the U.S., yet only about half of people age 50 and older have been screened.

“Colorectal cancer is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented through screening since precancerous polyps can be identified and removed before they become cancerous,” said Dr. Johanna Bendell, an oncologist with Sarah Cannon who specializes in gastrointestinal (GI) cancers such as cancers of the colon, rectum, stomach and pancreas. “The at-home test is not a substitute for an examination by your physician, but it is a great first step.”

Dr. Bendell recommends that men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer begin screening at age 50, utilizing either the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT); endoscopy procedures such as a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy; or radiological imaging with double-contrast barium enema. People at increased or high risk should consult their physician about the appropriate screening test and schedule for them.

A personal or family history of the disease increases risk. Studies indicate that men and women who are overweight are more likely to develop and die from colon cancer, and a diet high in red or processed meat is known to increase risk.

The free kit contains a fecal occult blood test along with detailed instructions and educational information. For more information or to request a free kit, call TriStar MedLine at (615) 342-1919.

To learn more about reducing the risk of colon cancer and other cancers, visit