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News | Feb. 28, 2023

Doctor Stresses Screening for Colorectal Cancer

By Aisha Pearson Lomax, WRNMMC Command Communications

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mary O’Donnell, chief of the Colon and Rectal Surgery for the National Capital Region and Cancer Liaison Physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, says that screening for the disease, especially if the cancer is caught early, has been shown to save lives.

“Luckily, much of colorectal cancer is preventable. Screening exams like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy remove pre-cancerous polyps before they can grow into cancer,” O’Donnell explained.

She continued that a colonoscopy is recommended for people ages 45 and above. In addition to increasing age, she listed some other risk factors for colorectal cancer, including a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps, and diets high in animal fact and low in calcium, folate, and fiber.

If your screening exam is normal (no polyps or other findings), screening intervals for each exam is:
  • Colonoscopy – every 10 years
  • Virtual colonoscopy – every five years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – every five years
  • Fecal occult blood sample or fecal immunochemical test – every year
  • FIT-DNA stool test – every three years
“Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables,” said O’Donnell regarding steps people can take to help prevent colorectal cancer. “It is also recommended adults eat 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Exercise regularly, do not smoke and minimize alcohol intake,” she added.

O’Donnell also encourages people to visit the WRNMMC site to see a list of conditions treated and services offered within her division. The site is located at

For more information about colorectal cancer visit
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