Should I do at-home colorectal cancer screenings?

Should I do at-home colorectal cancer screenings?

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S., excluding skin cancers. Thanks to advances in preventive screening measures, the death rate from colorectal cancer is declining.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults aged 50-75 are not up to date on colorectal screenings.

“Most people should be screened for colorectal cancer starting at 45 years old, but certain factors can increase your risk and make it necessary for you to be tested earlier, including family history and inflammatory bowel disease,” explains Dr. Michael Kim a colorectal surgeon at Aurora Health Care. “There are several screening tests for colorectal cancer. The right test for you will depend on your preferences, medical and family history, and resources.”

Endoscopy: Colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy are all endoscopic procedures that allow doctors to visually check the colon for abnormalities.

  • Colonoscopy – The so-called “gold standard” for colorectal screenings gives a full view of the colon and rectum using a colonoscope. Doctors can remove polyps during the procedure. Colonoscopies should generally be repeated every 10 years.
  • Virtual colonoscopy – During this screening, air is pumped into the colon while the patient undergoes a CT scan. Doctors check for polyps, but additional procedures would need to be completed to remove them. This type of colonoscopy should be done every five years.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Doctors get a visual of the sigmoid colon and rectum using a sigmoidoscope. The entire colon is not visible through this test, but doctors  are able to remove polyps seen on the sigmoid colon or rectum during the procedure. Sigmoidoscopies should be completed every five years or in conjunction with at-home stool tests.

At-home stool tests: There are three main types of stool-based tests. They should be completed every 1-3 years. If any of the tests come back positive, a diagnostic colonoscopy is advised to determine the cause of bleeding.

  • Fecal occult blood test (GFOBT) – Detects blood that isn’t visible to the eye. Individuals using this testing method need to follow drug and dietary restrictions prior to taking the test.
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) – This test does not require any prior drug or dietary restrictions. The test is typically seen as more effective than GFOBT tests.
  • FIT-DNA tests – This test is commonly known and is performed at home. The test identifies DNA abnormalities and blood in the stool.

Talk with your doctor to determine which colorectal cancer screening is appropriate for you.

Learn your risk for colorectal cancer by taking our colorectal health assessment.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.