At-home colon cancer test pros and cons | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Is an at-home colon cancer test right for you?

At-home colon cancer tests are available that are not as precise and don’t allow the immediate treatment of a colonoscopy, but may be cheaper and are better than skipping a screening.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges, including delays in some health care visits. That’s why at Norton Healthcare, we’ve made it easy for you to take control of your health from home.

For those who would rather not get a colonoscopy during a pandemic, at-home colon cancer tests are available. While they are not as precise and don’t allow for immediate treatment, they may be cheaper and are better than skipping a screening.

Insurance companies, including Medicaid, typically pay most, if not all, of the cost of a colonoscopy as well as at-home tests for those who meet requirements, such as age.

For some, the thought of cleaning out their bowel for a colonoscopy is something they’d rather not do. The process is painless, and there are simple planning steps that can make colonoscopy prep easier. It’s just more of something we all do.

“At the end of the day, if it’s a positive fecal test, you’re still going to have to go down the road of needing a colonoscopy,” said Michelle Julien, M.D., colon and rectal surgeon with Norton Surgical Specialists – Colorectal Health.

A colonoscopy after a positive Cologuard or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) would be considered diagnostic, rather than screening, by insurance companies, and may not have the same high level of insurance coverage, according to Dr. Julien.

Here some pros and cons of at-home colon cancer tests.

Cologuard

Pros

  • Your part — collecting a stool sample — is done at home.
  • By looking for DNA mutations and other signs of possible colon cancer, the test can identify colon cancer in its early stages, before symptoms appear.
  • No bowel prep or dietary restrictions are required.
  • There’s no anesthesia, and it’s noninvasive.
  • If you’re uninsured, it’s cheaper than a colonoscopy.
  • Insurance typically covers most, if not all, of colon cancer screenings, including Cologuard. According to Cologuard, more than 94% of its patients have no out-of-pocket expense.

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Is an at-home colon cancer test right for you?

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Cons

  • If you test positive, you’ll still need a colonoscopy. The positive test may decrease the insurance reimbursement for your colonoscopy because it would be considered diagnostic, not screening, at that point.
  • Unlike a colonoscopy, the test does not treat colon cancer, because it does not allow for immediate removal of polyps or tumors.
  • It doesn’t examine the entire colon.
  • If you’re uninsured, it’s more expensive than a FIT test.
  • It’s not available if you have higher-than-average risk.
  • A clinical study showed 13% of patients without cancer still tested positive (false positive). False negatives — colon cancer cases Cologuard missed — were 8%.

Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

Pros

  • Your part — collecting a stool sample — is done at home.
  • There’s no bowel prep.
  • It’s noninvasive, so there’s no anesthesia.
  • If you’re uninsured, it’s cheaper than a colonoscopy or Cologuard.
  • Insurance typically covers most, if not all, of colon cancer screenings, including FIT.
  • The test looks for hidden blood that could be from polyps or tumors.

Cons

  • If blood is detected, you’ll need additional tests to determine the source, and you’ll still need a colonoscopy. Detecting blood may decrease the insurance reimbursement for your colonoscopy, because it would be considered diagnostic, not screening, at that point.
  • FIT does not treat colon cancer, because it doesn’t allow for immediate removal of polyps or tumors as a colonoscopy would.
  • It doesn’t examine the entire colon.
  • Test needs to be done yearly.
  • FIT fails to detect some polyps and cancers.
  • You may need to avoid certain foods or medications for a few days before the test.
  • False positives can suggest an issue when there is none.

Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy

Colon Cancer Screenings

Call to discuss scheduling a colonoscopy or other options such as Cologuard or fecal immunochemical test (FIT), screenings which use a stool sample.

(502) 446-WELL (9355)

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