Colorectal cancer screening is all about location

Colorectal cancer screening is all about location

There’s a reason to celebrate colon cancer screening and awareness: a decline in cases and an increase in screening options.

“Cases of colorectal cancer have been going down year after year for more than three decades,” says Dr. Jared Emolo, a colorectal surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “We think that we can attribute that decline to people getting screened early and catching growths before they ever turn into cancer.”

One factor you will have to determine ahead of time is the location you’ll do your colorectal cancer screening. At-home tests are an easy option, while in-person appointments offer a more comprehensive screening.

You might choose an at-home screening for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Convenience and privacy: Collecting your sample can be conducted from the comfort of your own bathroom.
  • Prep and downtime: Depending on the at-home test you use, you may not need to fast or cleanse your colon with laxatives prior to collection.
  • Noninvasive collection: Because at-home tests look for blood or abnormal DNA in your stool, all you need to do is provide a sample.

On the other hand, the convenience of at-home tests may be outweighed by other factors:

  • Follow-up screenings: It’s important to note that a positive result from your at-home test means you’ll need to schedule a follow-up colonoscopy within three to six months.
  • Additional cost: Your health insurance policy might only cover one screening for colorectal cancer per year – and a follow-up colonoscopy could be considered diagnostic, affecting your deductible, coinsurance or copay.

“At-home colorectal cancer testing makes it easier for more people to screen. It’s a great option for people with busy schedules and who are at average risk without a family history of cancer,” Dr. Emolo says.

The traditional colonoscopy, however, is the recommended approach for those at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer: people who are physically inactive, obese, have unhealthy eating habits, or those with a family history of colon cancer.

Here’s why you might consider skipping the at-home kit and getting a colonoscopy instead:

  • Greater effectiveness: During a colonoscopy, your doctor will be able to remove small polyps or biopsy larger growths, or suspicious tissue, potentially saving you from additional diagnostic procedures.
  • Broader benefit: Colonoscopies can help diagnose other conditions or diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • Frequency: Unlike at-home tests, which should be used every one to three years, screening colonoscopies are performed every 10 years for people without polyps.

There are some sticking points to consider. You might have to take a day off work, and you’ll be sedated so you will need a ride home after your appointment. Other things to note include:

  • Prep and downtime: Your doctor needs a clear view of your colon and rectum during a colonoscopy, so you’ll need to cleanse your bowels with proper preparation.
  • Procedural complications: There is a slight chance of bleeding, especially if you have polyps removed, and you might feel bloated or experience cramping as air exits your colon after your appointment.

“Colonoscopies are efficient and comprehensive,” says Dr. Emolo. “The minor inconvenience of prepping is certainly outweighed by the life-saving benefits – not to mention the need for additional appointments.”

No matter how you choose to screen for colorectal cancer, the most important thing is that you do so in one way or another. When it comes to tests, your doctor can discuss the different types of colorectal cancer screenings and help you choose the right one for you.

Learn your risk for colorectal cancer by taking our colorectal health assessment. Learn more information about colorectal cancer screenings in Illinois or Wisconsin

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About the Author

Alyx Andrus
Alyx Andrus

Alyx Andrus, health enews contributor, is a senior content writer at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. With a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and experience in journalism and retail marketing, she’s been writing in different capacities for more than 15 years. Alyx lives in southeastern Wisconsin with her husband and their dogs, Amelia and Gus.