Colon cancer is highly preventable and treatable. Yet more than 140,000 people are diagnosed with—and more than 50,000 people die from—colon cancer each year in the United States. The key to improving these statistics is to ensure that every person completes a routine colon cancer screening test, which can stop the disease before it starts.
The following covers the available screening tests, and provides information on where these tests are performed, how often they need to be repeated, and who is a good candidate for this type of test. All average-risk patients should begin screening for colon cancer at 50.
PROCEDURES & X-RAY TESTS
Colonoscopy is the preferred colon cancer screening test. It is the best way for doctors to find and remove precancerous growths, called polyps, and is also the only test that allows doctors to look at the
entire colon so that they can find other early signs of disease.
During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a physician examines the bottom portion of a patient’s colon to look for polyps. This test is not as thorough as a colonoscopy because only the bottom portion of the colon is examined. As a result, sedation is not always needed.
A virtual colonoscopy is an X-ray test that uses a CT scan to inspect the lining of a patient's colon for polyps. Patients must still prep their bowels the day before this procedure, but sedation is not needed.
The Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is a non-invasive stool-based test. Patients collect their stool sample at home and send it to a lab for testing. Any blood in the stool results in a positive test, and a follow-up colonoscopy is required.
Stool DNA Test (Cologuard)
Cologuard is another stool-based test. The patient collects their sample at home and then sends it to a lab for testing. The study looks for blood in the stool or DNA markers associated with colon cancer. A positive test requires a follow-up diagnostic colonoscopy.
Find more information on the colon cancer screening tests here.
This story ran in the Colon Cancer Awareness issue of The Checkup, a UCLA Health community newsletter on how to live your healthiest life.
Tags: Cancer, cologuard, colon cancer, colon cancer screening, colonoscopy, colorectal cancer, Family Medicine, FIT kit, flexible sigmoidoscopy, Healthy Living, home tests for colon cancer, Internal Medicine, prevention, virtual colonoscopy