Choose Your Screening.

Early diagnosis of colon cancer is the key to surviving the disease. When detected in its early stages through screening tests, 90% of colon cancer cases are preventable, treatable, and beatable.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following tests for colorectal cancer screening: colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and at-home stool testing.

Stool-Based Tests

Stool-based tests are non-invasive colorectal cancer screening options. No special bowel preparation (no laxatives or enemas) is required for a stool-based test. However, if the test does show abnormal signs of blood or a possible cancer or pre-cancer, a colonoscopy will be needed to confirm the result, and possibly to remove any abnormal findings or polyps. It’s important to remember the cause of an abnormal result may be a non-cancerous condition, such as ulcers or hemorrhoids.

Stool-based tests are not the best option for everyone. They are recommended for people who have an average risk for colorectal cancer: no personal history of pre-cancerous polyps, no colorectal cancer that runs in the family, or no other risk factors.

  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) are non-invasive tests used to find tiny amounts of blood in the stool that could be a sign of cancer or large polyps. Patients take these tests at home with a kit they receive from their doctor’s office, along with instructions on how to do the test and return it so it can be checked. Each test detects blood differently, but neither test can tell where the blood might be coming from. That’s why any abnormal result will need to be followed up with a colonoscopy. Stool tests like these need to be done every year.
  • Stool DNA testing (Cologuard®) is another type of non-invasive test to check for colorectal cancer. It looks for certain DNA or gene changes that often get into the stool and are sometimes found in pre-cancerous growths and cancer cells. It also checks for blood in the stool, which can be a sign of cancer. If a stool DNA test finds something abnormal, a colonoscopy will be needed to follow-up on the findings.  This kit arrives in the mail to your home and is done every 3 years.

 Visual Tests

Visual or structural tests are invasive tests that look inside the colon and rectum for abnormal areas that might be cancer or polyps. If a stool-based test was done first and had an abnormal result, a visual test can help find out why.

  • Colonoscopy uses a flexible lighted tube with a small camera on the end to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum. If polyps are found, they may be removed during the test. To prepare for the test, you may be asked to follow a special diet for a day or two before the test. You will also need to clean out your colon with strong laxatives (called a bowel prep) and sometimes with enemas, as well. Most people are sedated during the test. If nothing is found during the test, you won’t need another one for 10 years.
  • CT colonography (also called virtual colonoscopy) is a scan of the colon and rectum that produces detailed cross-sectional images so the doctor can look for polyps or cancer. It requires bowel prep, but no sedation. Air is pumped into the rectum and colon, and then a CT scanner is used to take images of the colon. If something is seen that may need to be biopsied, a follow-up colonoscopy will be needed. CT colonography must be done every 5 years.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy is not widely used for colorectal cancer screening in the U.S. It’s like a colonoscopy, but only looks at a certain part of the colon and rectum instead of looking at the entire length of the colon and rectum. If polyps are found, they may be removed during the test, or you may need to have a colonoscopy later. Bowel prep may be required, but is not as extensive as the one used for colonoscopy. Most people do not need to be sedated during this test. If polyps or suspicious areas are seen, a colonoscopy will be needed to look at the rest of the colon. Flexible sigmoidoscopy must be done every 5 years.

Regular screening is one of the most powerful ways to prevent colorectal cancer. If polyps are found during colorectal cancer testing, they can usually be removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Testing can also result in finding cancer early, when it’s smaller and might be easier to treat.

There is no single “best test” for any person.  Each test has advantages and disadvantages. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each test, and how often to be tested. Which test to use depends on—

  • Your preferences.
  • Your medical condition.
  • The likelihood that you will get the test.
  • The resources available for testing and follow-up.

 

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Get Screened!

Recent studies have shown that up to 70% of Americans WITH insurance are not up-to-date on their colon cancer screening. This number includes people who are of eligible screening age and have not been screened as well as those who were screened once but have not done the necessary follow-ups or are due for another test.

Often times the hardest part of the screening is picking up the phone to make the call. Here are 5 reasons to make that call now.

  1. You can prevent colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the country. But it doesn’t have to be! A colonoscopy can detect and remove colon polyps before they become cancer, preventing the disease from occurring.
  2. Think of your family. Imagine you could have stopped colon cancer, but you didn’t. Your family needs you now and in the future. Schedule your screening, and then talk to your family about the results. Family history matters!
  3. Early stage colon cancer may not have symptoms. There is a 90% 5-year survival rate when the disease is caught in early stages. That number drops to about 10% when it is diagnosed in late stages. Only 40% of patients nationwide are diagnosed with early stage disease.  GET SCREENED!
  4. Treat your body better than your car. A colonoscopy screening is good for 10 years! If your colonoscopy shows no polyps you don’t need to go back for 10 years. If you could find a car maintenance plan that efficient, wouldn’t you sign up on the spot?!
  5. You’re covered. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover screening colonoscopies. Take advantage of your coverage!
  6. (consider it a bonus) One day of prep beats months (or years) of treatment! Ask any colon cancer survivor and they will tell you that picking up the phone and making the appointment and the prep required for a colonoscopy is nothing compared to recovering from invasive abdominal surgery followed by chemo and radiation treatments. You have no excuse. MAKE THE CALL!

 

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