While a colonoscopy is regarded as the best way to detect colon cancer, as many as one third of Americans are skipping the screening which is recommended for all adults 50 and older. If you’ve had this procedure, you know that the entire process, from preparation to recovery is not as simple, convenient or comfortable, as most health screenings.
To overcome these objections, more healthcare providers are turning to a home test kit called a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which costs about $22. The test detects blood in the stool that can indicate the presence of abnormal growths (polyps) which can become cancerous.
The new FIT test kit is an improvement over previous home tests that require three stool samples and avoiding red meat which can trigger a false positive. The FIT test has no dietary restrictions and only requires one sample.
For people averse to colonoscopies, this new test may become the first line of defense. A recent study supports this strategy as it found that people are more likely to get screened for colorectal cancer using a stool test first versus a colonoscopy.
It’s important to note that fecal blood tests are not a substitute for a full colonoscopy. If the home test is positive, a colonoscopy will still be necessary for further screening or to remove polyps so they can be biopsied to rule out cancer.
Current Screening Guidelines
No matter how unpleasant the subject matter, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of colorectal cancer screening as these cancers are the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for men and women combined. Even more tragic is the fact that colorectal cancer is highly curable when detected early.
According to current recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force all adults age 50 to 75 should be screened with either: a fecal blood test every year; a sigmoidoscopy (a procedure that looks only at the lower part of the colon and rectum) every five years along with fecal blood testing every three years; or colonoscopy every 10 years.
Your doctor may alter these recommendations if you are in a high-risk group.
The Wall Street Journal