There are many reasons to visit your primary care doctor, ranging from standard health checkups to more thorough screenings. That said, when you go to your doctor, one of the screenings you should schedule is for colon cancer, especially if you’re above 50 years of age. While colon cancer is more common among those 50 or older, the frequency of cases in younger people has been growing. Because of this, it is highly recommended that even at the age of 45, you should visit your primary care doctor to have the screening done.
That said, there are many ways one can screen for colon cancer. What are they? Which ones should you choose? Let’s find out.
The Different Types of Colon Cancer Screening
When it comes to colon cancer screening, any option is better than nothing. However, each test is slightly different from others, each with its pros and cons. Let’s briefly go over the most common methods:
If you’re looking for an at-home solution to colon cancer screening that’s non-invasive, a Cologuard test is an option available. To get the tools you need to carry out the procedure, you’ll need to have it provided by your healthcare provider.
How does a Cologuard test work? Well, it works very similarly to Fecal Immunochemical Test that we’re going to touch on in a bit. Put simply, it looks for blood traces in your feces. However, Cologuard differs because it also extracts DNA from the cells that are shed from your intestines to check for cancer.
That said, while Cologuard is more sensitive at detecting cancer, the main downside to these options is that false positives are a common occurrence. At the same time, Cologuard is moreso oriented to patients that are low-risk and must be performed every few years if the results show negative.
Fecal Immunochemical Test
As previously mentioned, a Cologuard test is like a Fecal Immunochemical Test, also known as FIT.
In most cases, FIT is the next best option for a colonoscopy, especially for those looking for a non-invasive procedure that can be done at home, like Cologuard. It simply works by securing your fecal samples, which will then be sent to the lab for testing. Because the sample is tested in a professional environment, FIT presents far fewer false positives, meaning that the results are much more reliable.
The only main drawback to FIT is there is no visual examination of your intestine. This means that while FIT can detect cancers and polyps, not all of them will be detected.
Perhaps the best colon-screening procedure you can ever receive from your healthcare providers would be a colonoscopy. It is far more sensitive than the previous two tests we’ve mentioned above, meaning that it’ll detect pretty much any trace of cancer that might be lingering in your colon.
Colonoscopy works by allowing a gastroenterologist to look inside of your colon, as well as your rectum, for any signs or symptoms of cancer. While this means that the biggest advantage of colonoscopy would be the combination of screening and diagnosis in one go, this, for some, is a downside. As you might be able to tell, colonoscopy requires someone to use a probing look into it. Not only that, but the patient must prepare for the process, cleaning out the entire colon to allow the gastroenterologist to have a better look at it.
That said, if the colonoscopy proves that you have no cancer, you won’t have to worry for the next decade.
So, which one should you choose? Well, that’s up to you. If you want the best colon screening test possible, a colonoscopy is the way to go. However, if you want something that’s more at-home or one that isn’t invasive, both the FIT and Cologuard test are great options as well. Just remember to weigh out the pros and cons of each option and decide with the help of a physician on which route you should opt for that’ll best suit your needs.
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